Swindon boss Richie Wellens labelled it “one of those days” after slipping to a shock 2-0 defeat at Port Vale.
Goals from Scott Burgess and Jake Taylor condemned the misfiring table toppers to their first league defeat since October – ending an impressive nine-game unbeaten run.
Goal machine Eoin Doyle, who has 22 goals this season, failed to find the net in the league for the first time since September – a stunning 11-game scoring streak.
“I was very proud of my players because if you had a list of things that could go wrong in a day then we pretty much tick all of them,” reflected Wellens.
“We have a lad (Ellis Iandolo) who’s struggling with a really bad injury three or four minutes into the game and I make a change.
“Then my captain (Mathieu Baudry) goes off injured really early on and Keshi Anderson’s injured and we used all our substitutes so he stays on and we basically play with 10 men for the last 15 minutes.
“Our intricacy around the edge of the box just wasn’t there and it was one of those days, we’ll have days like these.
“It just didn’t quite go our way and we just didn’t choose the right options.
“It’s one of those days where I’m kicking myself.
“Maybe I should have made two or three changes for that little bit of freshness.
“If you look at our performance on Boxing Day then there was no need to make any changes, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing and with the way it’s mapped out maybe I should have.”
Swindon hold a two-point cushion over closest challengers Exeter after they were held to a 2-2 draw at Colchester.
Victory ended Vale’s six-match winless run to propel them to within four points of the play-off spots.
Beaming Vale boss John Askey said: “It’s just what we needed! It takes the pressure off us a little bit.
“Our performances have been good recently and we got our rewards for another good performance.
“I’m proud of the way that we played right from the off.
“We showed a desire to win and the two goals that we scored are good enough to win any game. We’ve beaten a team right at the top and that’s really pleasing for us.
“We scored two but we could have had more. We always looked as though we have a goal in us but it’s also pleasing to get a clean sheet.
“What you can see is the boys have really looked after themselves over Christmas which isn’t always the case.
“We’ve looked good and you can really see the benefits of that.
“We’ve got a great opportunity now to get on a run. It’s no use playing like that against the top teams and not back it up against teams below you.”