The Deans were the Premier Division’s second top scorers last season, with 116 goals in just 40 appearances.

Connor Duffin (40) and Zak Willett (35) were the top two scorers in the entire division in terms of league goals.

But Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Hythe means Horndean has scored just twice in his first three Premiership appearances of 2022/23.

Horndean manager Michael Birmingham is calling on his attackers to be more “ruthless” after the Wessex League defeat at Hythe & Dibden. Photo: Neil Marshall

They carved out a host of openings against unbeaten Hythe but squandered them all and paid the price when Christos Papakonstantinou struck a winner in the second half.

“It was the best we’ve played all season,” said Birmingham. “We were of different class. I’m sitting here wondering how we didn’t win.

“There was only one team that should have come away with the three points.

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“But Hythe are honest boys, they stayed in the game – or rather we allowed them to stay in the game – and they took their chances and we didn’t take ours.

“Connor Duffin hit the post with a free-kick after 25 minutes, and one of their benches said to me ‘this might be our lucky day’ – he called it good.”

Birmingham were stunned as their side were denied a ‘stone’ penalty in the first minute.

Former Moneyfields and Gosport Borough of Hythe goalkeeper Ellis Grant crushed Willett with a punch, but referee Lee Nowacki dismissed appeals.

“We need to be more clinical,” Birmingham continued. “We’ve only scored twice in three league games, it’s not enough for the chances we’ve created.”

“Sometimes you have to be a little more ruthless, try to score a scrappy, ugly goal.

“We don’t bet enough on the keeper making a mistake or the ball hitting the post.”

Horndean host new Premier Division boys Pagham on Tuesday before hosting Fareham Town at Five Heads Park next weekend.