Nigel Worthington was left cursing his luck as Northern Ireland's World Cup hopes suffered another setback on Saturday night following the 2-0 defeat to Slovenia.
Slovenia claimed two late goals from Milivoje Novakovic and substitute Zlatan Ljubijankic in the closing five minutes.
It means Northern Ireland have now taken just two points from three games, and manager Worthington said: "It was a bitter blow, but I've been in the game long enough to know that these things happen. We played some good football and showed a tremendous work ethic, but the rub of the green is not with us. We have got to make things happen."
He added: "I thought the players were superb with their energy and commitment.
"It is clear we are playing catch-up in the group, but I can see a lot of 'positives'. We created some decent chances - and if we can start taking them, we will pick up points.
"We have played three games, conceded four goals - but Maik Taylor has not had a save to make."
Northern Ireland were chasing the winner only to be dealt a double body blow just when they were least expecting it.
They now face San Marino in Belfast on Wednesday, and Worthington is convinced the players will rise to the challenge.
He said: "The players are very down in the dressing room, as you would expect, but I was very proud of their performance. We are all terribly disappointed, because for 84 minutes we were in control of the situation. Then they scored twice.
"It was a kick in the teeth. At the moment, the players are not getting their just rewards for all the hard work they are putting into training and in matches."
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