WINCHESTER City’s midweek feel-good factor evaporated this afternoon as they were beaten 2-0 at home by Mangotsfield United in the Southern One South & West.
With Jamie Barron suspended, City skipper Jamie Brown was partnered by new signing Ed Dryden in midfield.
Dryden previously played for boss Ian Saunders at Petersfield from where he joined Stoke City’s Academy in March last year.
Bouyed by an excellent 4-2 midweek win over Salisbury, Winchester began brightly with Rob Flooks heading Joe Briggs’ early corner over and Howard Neighbour almost capitalising on Taz Roberts’ byline cutback.
But the Mangos soon looked menacing and it needed a smart double save by ex-Eastleigh goalkeeper Lewis Noice to deny Liam Monelle before a last-ditch block denied Lewis Powell, earning the visitors their first corner.
Briggs’ dead-ball delivery offered a threat for City as he picked out former Petersfield teammate Jamie Ford and Neighbour.
But City suffered a 21st-minute setback when skipper Brown, who missed most of last season side-lined by injury at Basingstoke Town, hobbled off with a tight calf, handing the captain’s armband to Flooks.
Ross Bottomley replaced him and joined Flooks in central defence, while Ford pushed up into midfield.
Eight minutes later the Citizens fell behind from a penalty awarded against Adam Tomasso for handball.
Seasoned campaigner Powell stepped up to send Noice the wrong way from the spot.
On 35 minutes Briggs delivered another tempting free-kick, this time from the right, but Neighbour could not direct his header on target.
Noice, the busier of the two goalkeepers, was called into action again on 40 minutes, turning away a dangerous shot on the turn by Matt Groves, who soon tested him again with a strike from distance.
City’s backs were against the wall as half-time approached, but they managed to cling onto a 1-0 deficit.
Their luck was not to hold out, however, as the Mangos doubled their advantage three minutes into the second-half – Tom Warren curling a cute shot beyond the reach of Noice into the far corner for 2-0.
City’s response was positive and five minutes later they had their best chance when Neighbour’s downward header clattered the upright from Danny King’s deep cross.
Neighbour then tried to beat Kyle Phillips at his near post, but the goalkeeper was equal to his strike.
As Winchester fought to get a foothold in the game, Mangotsfield went close to a third when No. 2 Ben Withey surged through and slid a shot wide.
Withey’s opposite number Tomasso then showed similar enterprise coming forward for Winchester, but his first shot drifted wide and his second, a rasping effort from an acute angle, was well turned over by Phillips.
The Citizens rang the changes with Stuart Green replacing Dryden on 68 minutes and Roberts making way for fit-again striker Sam Wilson eight minutes later.
But the home side breathed a sigh of relief on 77 minutes when Powell had the ball in the net again only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
The next time Powell threatened Tomasso was injured as he intervened, but he was able to continue after treatment.
Winchester fought to the end but their last chance disappeared when Craig Feeney was unable to capitalise on another inviting Briggs delivery.