Sandy Clark admits his Albion Rovers side lost all the key battles as they were knocked out of the South Challenge Cup by lowly Kilwinning Rangers.
The Buffs play two tiers below Lowland League Rovers in the Scottish football pyramid, but they were levels above Clark’s men in Saturday’s fourth round tie on the road to a 3-0 win.
Mark Lamont bagged a brace and Gavin Millar also netted at Buffs Park to send the hosts into the last 16 of the competition.
Rovers were reduced to 10 men late on when Connor Duffy saw red but that had no bearing on the result, with the Cliftonhill side convincingly beaten.
Clark felt referee Ross Birrell didn’t help his side’s cause, but offered no excuses for a disappointing display.
The Rovers boss said: “Kilwinning 100 per cent deserved to win the game. We had a few players out but took it as seriously as we could.
“We lost the battle both individually and collectively.
“The first goal was always going to be massive.
“I don’t want to say too much but there were a couple of massive decisions in the game that went against us - but that happens.
“At the end of the day, I couldn’t be a referee because it is such a hard job.”
The sides could not be separated in the first half, but just five minutes into the second half Kilwinning broke the deadlock when Lamont sent a free-kick flying past the despairing dive of Ross Connelly in the Rovers goal.
Ten minutes later, Lamont added a second from the penalty spot, giving Connelly the eyes and sending him the wrong way to double their advantage.
Clark pushed to get back into the game with a double substitution, bringing on Tylar Denholm and Duffy to replace Arnie Kasa and Josh Tran.
However, they couldn’t help the visitors find their way to goal and eight minutes from time, Rangers wrapped up the win when substitute Millar finished off a good move on the counter attack.
In the 85th minute, Rovers’ day went from bad to worse when Duffy was shown a straight red card for a lunge on Buffs captain Ben Lewis.
It might have been 4-0 but for a fine save from Connelly late on.
Clark praised his opponents after their victory and reckons Kilwinning would more than hold their own in the Lowland League.
He added: “It’s a different set-up when you come to play games like this. I’ve been in football a long time and lower-league football in the last year or so.
“And I’ve found that, no matter what league you go into, there is an imbalance. Kilwinning could play in the Lowland League without any shadow of a doubt.
“There’s a lot of good teams out there and just because you are in a higher league, that doesn’t make you a good team.”
Rovers are in Scottish Cup action this Saturday when they host Bonnyrigg Rose in a third round tie.