Notts County manager Kevin Nolan admitted his side were second best as they were beaten 3-1 at Mansfield Town.
A brace from Danny Rose and Richard Duffy's own goal meant Carl Dickinson's first goal for the club was little more than a consolation as the Stags claimed the Matt Salmon Trophy.
"I thought they were the better side from start to finish," said the manager.
"We didn't get going, we didn't do what we normally do and we didn't handle their strengths.
"You have to give credit to them but we could have done a lot of things better and with a lot more efficiency.
"I don't think I can knock the lads' attitude and application to the game, I just think Mansfield looked a bit sharper and were buoyed by the crowd.
"We have no excuses. We were beaten by the better side."
The defeat was Notts' first in League Two since the opening day of the season and Nolan was keen to maintain perspective, with his team still top of the league.
"We've had a fantastic run and what we've done this week can't be taken away from us," he said, referring to the 4-1 win against Lincoln and the 3-0 victory at Exeter.
"Not many teams will only have two losses in their first 11 games and a lot of Notts fans would have taken six points from this week.
"I'm delighted with the output of the boys so far this season but today it just wasn't our day and sometimes you have to accept that."