It might have been worse for Leon Meakin’s side, but young Cal Le Lacheur won them a point with a second-half equaliser in a 1-1 draw.
Unbeaten in six league and cup games, five of which they had won, Sylvans’ young side arrived with vague notions of a serious title challenge, but with eyes perhaps more on a top three finish and Wheway Cup qualification.
With Bels, in particular, breathing down their necks, Martyn de Garis’s men wanted to leave with at least a point, Saints eyeing the full three ahead of a longish period of league inactivity – by which time they could have lost the league leadership.
The main team news saw Dom Heaume missing out and Louis Hunter return to the Saints starting XI and an unwell Miles Pengelley sidelined for Sylvans.
Jacob Fallaize wore the Sylvans armband in Pengelley’s absence, while Tiago Rodrigues was up front alongside Kyle Smith, whose battle with Jamie Dodd promised to be a potentially intriguing side issue.
Dodd was quickly sliding in on Smith to stop a touchline raid and it was a decent start by the visitors with Fallaize heading over an early corner.
Sylvans were happy to play a high line and it almost cost them when Le Lacheur nipped in off the left and let the reds off by pulling his shot wide of the far post.
On the big pitch, and with a good, slick surface, there was a good flow to the game with Saints, despite having lost Ben Coulter to a blood injury, briefly on top by the quarter mark.
Much of the action was being squeezed into the middle 50 yards, but Smith gave Saints a warning with a glancing header that slid wide of the far post.
With every passing five minutes Sylvans were growing in confidence but Jason Martin was still untroubled.
It was much the same at the other end with Nick Batiste busied only by taking high balls into the area.
Young Seb Vance had a goal-bound effort charged down and as the half moved into the final 10 minutes Sylvans were now more likely to score an opener.
Smith’s cross across the face of goal only needed a touch by Tiago, but the striker could not quite get there and Saints escaped.
On 41, only desperate defending stopped Smith netting and a minute later Seb Smeed was blocked off clumsily by Etienne Le Prevost in the box and Tiago rammed home the penalty high into the middle of the goal. Saints called vehemently for a handball in the six-yard box soon after, but ref George Jennings was his ever calm self and unmoved.
Sylvans began the second half with fresh legs up top, U18s Corey Brouard and Simon Arnold replacing Tiago and Tomos Ap Sion, but they remained on the front foot, Smeed enjoying himself in the middle of the park where he was running the show until he tired late on.
Saints threw on young Harry Tough and Sylvans gave Joe Collenette a good half hour in place of James Ravenscroft.
Tough went close with a firm drive that Batiste parried for a corner and heading into the last 25 minutes Saints were pressing increasingly hard without looking too dangerous until Le Lacheur ran onto a Tough pass and found the far corner.
Saints had 22 minutes to get another, but it was Sylvans, first via Smeed and then Brouard, who was inches too high, who came closest to winning the game for a unit getting better by the month.