There are times when a team has to simply admit that it has been outclassed by superior opposition and move quickly on. Such is the case for St Albans City after being ruthlessly slaughtered by an expensively assembled and talented Whitehawk following a 6-0 drubbing at the Enclosed Ground on Saturday.
Ghassimu Sow in action.
The finishing of Brighton-based Whitehawk was of the highest order and matched the excellent approach play of Steve Kingâ€™s side that strengthened its position in the top three of National League South by virtue of Cityâ€™s biggest league defeat for over three years.
But, whilst heaping praise on the quality of the Hawks, it must be made clear that City contributed to their own downfall by making countless basic errors.
Jimmy Gray and Graham Goldsâ€™ Saints failed to stay close to their hosts and could only look on as the Hawks played a slick and smooth passing game.
Cityâ€™s passing fell well short of what was required while the all too often recorded deficiencies going forward showed little sign of being resolved.
Just prior to the kick-off Gray spoke of City punching above their weight, a continuation of their early season form over the winter months and that phrase will no longer be valid.
St Albans started brightly with Harry Crawford winning an early corner that was followed by Lee Chappell doing well to clip the ball into the goalmouth where Louie Theophanous had a looping header gathered comfortably by home â€˜keeper Craig Ross.
City, though, were unable to maintain that early promise and Whitehawk wasted little time on imposing their control on the game.
The outstanding Sam Deering, who dominated the midfield along with the quite brilliant Sergio Torres, flashed a shot across the face of the City goal before a poorly weighted through ball by Gus Sow denied both Crawford and James Comley a clear run at goal.
One player who should be exempted from criticism is goalkeeper Joe Welch.
The City keeper proved his worth early on when diving to his right to turn away a header from the debut-making former Derby County and England Under-20 international Dean Leacock.
But it was just a temporary reprieve before Whitehawk took the lead on 16 minutes with a clinical counter-attack.
Theophanous swept a ball across the pitch to John Kyriacou whose touch to Scott Thomas fell short of its intended target and allowed David Martin, to seize possession some 20 yards inside his own half before powering forward.
Unchallenged, Martin laid the ball into the path of Danny Mills who cut inside onto his right foot and beat Welch with a superbly placed curling shot high to the left of the keeper for his 11th goal of the season.
It was Kyriacouâ€™s second blip of the match and after just 20 minutes the right-back found himself topping up his tan on the bench, as he made way for Billy Gibson. Comley was switched from midfield to right-back.
City saw a fair amount of the ball during the opening half but whereas their spells of possession carried no threat, Whitehawk moved forward when playing a passing game and greatly troubled their guests.
St Albans really needed to go in at half time on level terms but chances were limited.
Crawford headed the ball on to Theophanous but his shot was blocked by Leacock while the Saints leading marksman also had a close range effort deflected over the top by the diving Ross.
In between those efforts Welch saved a firm drive from the former Barnet and Cheltenham Town winger Deering.
Comley has been told by the City management to try more shots on goal but his effort from just five yards inside the Whitehawk half, which sailed harmlessly wide, was probably not quite what they had in mind.
The game shifted ominously in the final minute of the half when Whitehawk again broke away from a City attack to add a second goal.
Crawford and Scott Thomas failed to keep possession from a deep Lee Chappell corner and the Reds, through Martin, broke at speed and moved swiftly forward through Scott Neilson who wasted little time in sending Arnaud Mendy on a long run.
The Frenchman slid a good ball out to Deering who cut inside Sow and placed an exquisite angled shot across Welch from 12 yards for his fifth goal of the season.
St Albans probably paid a high price for being too adventurous during the first half, but still started the second period in a similar fashion, as they looked for a way back into the contest.
Crawford and Comley were not far away with efforts soon after the restart while Welch did well to block Mills as the striker attempted to turn in a cross by Nick Arnold that deflected off Ben Martin.
Any hope, however unlikely, of City staving off defeat vanished on 63 minutes when a wonderful team move brought about the third Whitehawk goal.
From midway inside their half Whitehawk passed their way forward at speed, and when Deering touched a return pass towards the goalline, for the advancing Arnold to retrieve, the full-back cut a wonderful ball inside to Martin who calmly pushed a point blank left-footed shot across Welch for his first goal of the season.
A defeat of growing proportions was clearly underway as City opened up faster and wider than any other well-publicised holes that have appeared around St Albans in recent days.
Welch pulled off a good save when diving to his left to keep out a drive by Chris Sessegnon after the defender had burst through the now flimsiest of midfield and defences.
An inevitable fourth goal arrived on 72 when Arnold ended a spell of sustained pressure by moving in from the right touchline and across both Thomas and Chappell before placing a beautifully struck and curled left-footed beyond the extended Welch.
David Martin looked to have added to City woes when coming in at speed from the right wing only to see his rising effort superbly tipped over by Welch.
As the game moved into the final ten minutes Cityâ€™s fortunes suffered another hammer blow when Ben Martin received the Saints second red card of the season.
Frustrated at being held down by Mills on two successive occasions as City floated crosses into the penalty area from the right flank, Martin spun round and used his not inconsiderable frame to throw Mills to the ground.
Referee Carl Brook had no option other than to dismiss the City defender.
But the Hastings match officials had a clear view of the two earlier offences and should have handed City a penalty long before Martin took matters into his own hands.
Down to ten men City pulled Theophanous back into the back four and the striker made two good interventions but was also fortunate not to concede a penalty when giving Deering a hefty shove in the back.
By that time Whitehawk had already moved into a five-goal lead with a brilliant goal that saw Deering involved in the build-up on no less than four occasions.
Deeringâ€™s final contribution was to shape up for a shot from 30 yards only to chip a good pass into unmarked substitute Stephane Ngamvoulou, whose left-footed shot deflected off the retreating Gayle and wrong-footed a clearly miffed Welch.
In the fourth minute of added time Whitehawkâ€™s supremacy was complete with a sixth goal.
Welch saved low down from Arnold but with a ludicrous long kick the Saints gifted possession straight back to Hawks who was keen on feasting on a sixth goal.
Once again the approach play was controlled as 15 passes were strung together. But as City stood counting the passes Ngamvoulou played the ball down the right to Deering.
This time Deeringâ€™s accuracy was found wanting but instead of receiving an ear-bashing the winger was the toast of the parade as the ball sailed just inside the near post and was pushed into the roof of the net by a surprised Welch.
It was a bitter pill for the City keeper to swallow as he had done more than most to reduce the margin of Cityâ€™s thrashing.
Ben Martin faces a three-match ban for his sixth sending-off in 222 games for the Saints but will be available for Cityâ€™s FA Cup 3rd Round Qualifying tie with Petersfield Town next Saturday, 10th October.
Kick off at the Love Lane home of the Southern League Division One Central side is at 3pm.
Petersfield, who have never previously progressed this far in the competition, are currently one place off the foot of the table, while Cityâ€™s six-goal thrashing has also sent them back into the relegation zone.