Stenhousemuir manager Brown Ferguson blamed the lack of a cutting edge in his team for Saturday’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at Elgin.
A penalty kick and a brilliant long range goal brought about the Warriors’ downfall in a tight contest at Borough Briggs.
Ferguson admitted the better team won in the end and challenged his players to make big improvements for the trip to leaders Stirling on Saturday.
“I felt as though Elgin deserved their win in terms of what I’m expecting from our group of players,” he said.
“I don’t think our keeper was tested too much but you could probably say the same about theirs.
“We had two good opportunities in the game which we failed to take. Our final pass, cross, delivery was poor and just our general display was not what we expect in terms of sharpness.
“We were off it today, and we need to dust ourselves down and bounce back for Stirling next week.”
Veteran Colin McMenamin was on the end of Stenny’s first raid into the kome penalty area on three minutes but a header on the stretch from Harry Paton’s cross failed to test keeper Marc Waters.
Nikki Paterson then had an effort deflected wide from the edge of the area.
Keeper Chris Smith was called into action twice in quick succession, smothering Brian Cameron’s header then diving full length to stop a drive from Aberdeen loan striker Bruce Anderson.
Paton looked lively for the Warriors and after a sweet nutmeg on a home defender on 21 minutes he teed up Eddie Ferns for an effort in the box which was blocked.
Neither side could break the midfield monotony over the remainder of the half. City’s Thomas Reilly and Stenny’s Mark Ferry booked for petty fouls.
Paton also had his name taken early in the second half, before the deadlock was broken by Elgin on 56 minutes.
City full back Lewis Strapp, on loan from Morton, picked up the ball inside the box and tempted Ross Meechan into a rash challenge which referee Mat Northcroft adjudged to be a foul and pointed to the spot.
Cameron sent Smith the wrong way to put his team in front.
Good play by Ferns 10 minutes later saw him beat Elgin defender Matthew Cooper and set up a one-on-one opportunity with Waters, which the Elgin keeper denied by spreading himself well to block with his legs.
The pivotal moment in the game arrived 15 minutes from time. Stenny hit Elgin with a swift counter attack and Ferns got clear on the right before crossing to the near post, where Mark McGuigan should have scored but sent his header wide of the target.
The north side went straight up the field and substitute Jordan Allan held possession before laying the ball off to Thomas Reilly, who hit the sweetest 25 yard drive past a helpless Smith and in off the underside of the bar.
“That was a wonder strike,” Ferguson admitted after the match, “but he gets into an area really easily and puts it away.
“We just never got going as a team.”