Oxford City boss Mike Ford admitted his side were overawed when blown away 4-0 at Skrill North leaders Telford on Saturday.
Ford has tried to introduce a passing style this season which had seen a recent improvement in performances.
But he felt his side got sucked into an aerial battle as they shipped four first-half goals.
He said: “We’ve tried to adopt a style of football that we think will bring results and to be honest I think first half my players bottled it a bit.
“We just went back to front, playing the same way that Telford did, and they were so much better at it than us.
“They just got edgy and nervous because it’s the top side.”
It was a further blow to City’s survival hopes as rivals Histon and Gloucester City both avoided defeat.
But after witnessing a much improved second-half showing, Ford remains confident his side will avoid the drop.
“They showed tremendous courage and character, but they need to show that from the start of the game,” he added.
“We’ve got 11 games left and I’m totally convinced we’ll get out of it.”