This was a harsh lesson in the need to take your chances when you’re facing a team from a higher level.
The Rocks missed a couple of golden opportunities against their Conference South opponents in this FA Trophy third qualifying round tie - and were made to pay when the Hawks clinically took theirs.
A crowd of 702 saw the Rocks match their visitors for much of the game but the Hawks’ more physical approach won the day and left the home side needing to rediscover their form in their forthcoming league games.
The hosts also ended the afternoon with another injury crisis after Matt Partridge came off with a foot injury that is thought likely to keep him out for a couple of weeks. That leaves them with just one fit central defender, Louis John, ahead of Tuesday’s visit to Hastings.
The Hawks took a third-minute lead through Steve Ramsey’s penalty after John was harshly adjudged to have handled when sliding in to block Ollie Palmer’s shot. The attack came from the Rocks losing possession on the halfway line.
The Rocks - who had Dan Beck starting his first game of the season - should have been level immediately but Ashley-Paul Robinson glanced a header wide from John Marzetti’s cross.
On nine minutes Ramsey tries one from 25 yards which beat Craig Stoner and was only just wide.
The Rocks levelled on 19 minutes with two helping hands from Hawks goalie Clark Masters. For reasons best known to himself he caught what was pretty clearly a high volleyed backpass from Jake Newton to give the Rocks a free-kick at an acute angle inside the six-yard box.
Despite a sea of bodies on the goal-line James Crane rifled it home after Kane Wills touched it to him.
But within four minutes, the Rocks were behind again when Tony Taggart headed in Ryan Woodford’s cross.
The Rocks responded well again - first Beck’s overhead kick from Doug Tuck’s knock-down was saved then the Hawks gave the ball away immediately and Robinson set up Crane for an opening but he shot wide.
Robinson cut inside and forced Masters into a sharp low save, then a quick break from the Rocks involving Wills and Robinon after good distribution from Stoner led to Tuck’s shot being blocked for a corner.
A Rocks giveaway on halfway gifted possession to Palmer and he tried to lob Stoner, who clawed it away for a corner. The home stopper then clung on to a 30-yard cleanly-hit strike from full-back Dan Butler as the Hawks ended the half the stronger.
Ex-Rock Paul Hinshelwood came on for Stephen Hamilton-Forbes at the start of the second half. Soon, Carl Walshe replaced Tuck as the Rocks looked to sharpen up their attack.
Matt Partridge surged forward to trouble Masters in the Hawks goal.
On 62 minutes Terry Dodd was back for his first game in two months following time out with a broken toe. He replaced the tiring Beck.
Robinson’s 20-yard curler came back off the woodwork, then Walshe burst into the box and squared for Dodd but his sidefooted effort was straight at Masters - you suspected a more match-sharp Dodd would have buried it. It would prove to be a crucial miss.
Another former Rock, Perry Ryan, came on for Ramsey and the Rocks enjoyed a fine spell but wuthout testing Masters again.
Walshe wanted a penalty after taking a return pass from Dodd, but he went down rather easily.
Connor Cody had to replace Partridge with 13 minutes left, the Reading man apparently having taken a nasty kick ot the foot.
With Stuart Axten and Ben Andrews still out injured, it leaves the Rocks critically short in the centre of defence.
The Hawks made their first-round place safe when Taggart tapped in after Palmer’s run ended in a fierce drive that Stoner couldn’t hold.
Scott Jones for Ryan Moss was the third Hawks change before a last chance for the Rocks to stage a grand finale as Robinson skied a 20-yarder after a neat build-up. The striker was, to the surprise of many, named man of the match soon after that.
A fourth goal - which somewhat flattered the Hawks - came in stoppage time through poor defending from the Rocks as the ball bounced off two defenders following a cross and fell to Jones, who couldn’t miss from five yards out.
It leaves the Rocks with just the league and league cup to focus on - they host Whitehawk in the cup on Tuesday week but will want to get their depleted team picking up some league points before then.
ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, John, Partridge (Cody), Beck (Dodd), Wills, Stockford, Robinson, Tuck (Walshe). Unused sub: Boyle.
Get all the latest from Nyewood Lane in the Observer - out on Thursday