Motherwell manager Stuart McCall refused to criticise his players despite their 2-0 defeat at Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League.
Stevie Hammell's own-goal and a William Gros header gave Killie the points but Well spurned several chances to score.
"You can't be too hard on the players today because I thought they were excellent," McCall told BBC Scotland.
"Our inability to take our chances has cost us, but the way we played I am more than happy."
With Inverness CT losing to leaders Celtic earlier in the day, Motherwell had the chance to move three points clear of the Highlanders.
But the defeat by the Ayrshiremen means both Motherwell and Caley Thistle trail Celtic by 18 points.
"It's the old cliche - if it had been a boxing match it would have been stopped at half-time," added McCall.
"They got a fortuitous goal, a deflection, which can happen, and I just think our luck was out today.
"They had valiant last-gasp clearances and you've got to give them credit for getting blocks on the line.
"After half-time I don't think we played as well as we did in the first half but I still think we were in control of the game.
"They weren't causing us any problems whatsoever.
"And then from a rare breakaway up the park, a good cross, a good header and we were 2-0 down."
Motherwell's chances of pulling off a late fight-back were quashed when Fraser Kerr then Keith Lasley were sent off by referee Steven McLean in the final period of the match, decisions McCall agreed with.
"I always believe that this group of players can come back but we lost our discipline in the last 10-15 minutes. They were both rash challenges," said the manager.
McCall scoffed at the notion that his absence from Fir Park in midweek, while he assisted new Scotland boss Gordon Strachan, in any way affected his team's performance.
"It would be absolutely ridiculous if anyone thought today's result has anything to do with me being away for three days," he stated.
"If we play like we did in the first half I'll go away with Scotland every week because there was some terrific football played. We dominated the game."