Lincoln boss Michael Appleton admitted his side got exactly what they deserved in their shock 2-1 home defeat to struggling Rochdale.
Appleton accepted his promotion hopefuls could have found themselves on the end of an even heavier beating as they crashed to a third loss in five games.
Oliver Rathbone gave Dale a deserved lead nine minutes before the break and City had several escapes early in the second half before conjuring up a stunning equaliser through Morgan Rogers on the hour mark.
But the visitors struck again after 74 minutes when Stephen Humphrys shrugged off a couple of challenges before firing home from the edge of the box.
“We got what we deserved – we got nothing. It was 2-1 and probably should have been more,” said Appleton.
“We’ve got talent, we know we’ve got talent, we’ve got players who can hurt teams and, on our day, can beat teams up at times with our ability.
“But the game is about more than that, it’s about earning the right to play and earning the right to gain territory on the opposition.
“There are different ways of doing it and we lacked any really urgency in the early part of the game. I don’t know how many second balls we lost out on in the middle of the park. That was part of the reason we went behind in the game.
“It summed up the game that we produced a bit of quality to get back into the game. A team with real, real desire to get out of the league and be successful goes on to win that game.
“The lad [Humphrys] played well and probably deservedly his luck, but there were four players around him.
“It looked like it was a game too far for us.”
Brian Barry-Murphy believes his Rochdale side “can achieve something special” as the moved off the foot of the table and to within two points of safety.
Barry-Murphy said: “I thought we continued where we left off on Tuesday night [in the 2-0 defeat to Shrewsbury].
“We created some real good chances against a very good team. It was a high-level performance from our lads.
“It fills us with confidence and hope as we head towards an exciting end of the season.
“The supporters are probably sick of me saying we created chances and should have won.
“But at some stage you want to get a result for the players and the supporters and be able to say, ‘We can actually do this’.
“We have players who are coming back towards full fitness. As we get those back, there’s a real confidence in the dressing room that we can achieve something special this season.”