Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis bemoaned a case of "same old story" following his side's 2-0 loss to Israel
Davis went close to opening the scoring in a positive first half from the home side at Windsor Park, seeing his close-range effort blocked by the face of goalkeeper Dudu Aouate. But Michael O'Neill's men could not find the finishing touch and slumped to defeat as Israel struck twice in the last 13 minutes through Lior Refaelov and Eden Ben Basat.
"We were happy with the performance but not the result. It's the same old story in many ways," he said.
"We dominated the game for long spells but failed to find a killer touch. It's just the luck we're having at the minute. We are being punished for every mistake.
"We switched off at the back for the first time and we were punished. Obviously the heads drop when that happens.
"It's difficult to come back at this level."
A place in the top two is now an unrealistic prospect, with fourth probably the most realistic target.
It is hardly a glamourous goal but one Davis is ready to take on.
"It's a long way back," he admitted.
"Had we won it would have kept us in the picture, but we've just got to dust ourselves down and prepare for the next game and try to pick up a win as soon as possible."