Werribee City was left deflated by a 2-0 opening round loss to Altona Magic on the road at Paisley Park in the National Premier League 2 west on Saturday.
The Bees were full of confidence after some impressive showings in warm-up matches, but that form did not eventuate against the Magic.
For Bees coach Sergio Sabbadini, it was a disappointing outcome.
“We had a fairly solid pre-season and we’ve been working really hard,” he said.
“We finished up our pre-season campaign against an NPL side Kingston City and beat them 3-1, so we thought we were looking pretty good going into the season.
“I’ve watched Altona Magic play a few times and while they’re solid, I thought they were beatable, but we just didn’t turn up. I probably had three contributors all day.”
The Bees conceded both goals in the first half and both partly through their own making.
The first came through a defensive error from the usually reliable Aki Machiyama.
Machiyama was dispossessed of the ball just outside the penalty area and made to pay through Magic goalscorer Jon McShane.
“He was our best and fairest winner from last year and you’d never expect him to make a mistake like that, but that happens,” Sabbadini said. “It did take the stuffing out of us a bit, but it was our own doing.”
Then came the dagger for Werribee City.
After dominating much of the play through the middle part of the first half, the Bees fell asleep in the seconds before half-time.
McShane was once again the beneficiary, capping his game with a double.
“After they scored their first goal, we had two or three chances to score,” Sabbadini said. “One, the keeper managed to get a hand to it, one the defender stopped it and one we didn’t get a shot off in time … we just didn’t take
“The assistant referee put the board up with one minute on it before half-time and I think everyone just switched off.
“It was our goal kick – he [Bees goalkeeper Tommy Dunn] kicked it to the halfway line and they won possession, played it forward and scored while we were just sitting around watching.”
Sabbadini is hopeful the performance is just a blip for the Bees and that they will return to being a tough defensive unit again.
“It’s a really long season, it’s 28 games, so one game isn’t going to define our season,” he said.
A positive to come out of the game for Werribee City was the impact of youngster Trevor Ssemakula. He was dynamic on the right wing, using his pace to burn off defenders, and worked hard to get back to plug a hole defensively.
“He was our best player by far,” Sabbadini said. “He’s very fast and very skilful and works hard all day, which is what a coach likes.”
Brad Murray was willing to get stuck in the middle of the park and Nick Bavcar was the pick of the defenders at left back, barely putting a foot wrong all game.
Werribee City will be keen to atone in its home opener, against Moreland Zebras at Galvin Park on Saturday from 5pm.
In FFA Cup qualifying, Point Cook-based West Point enjoyed a 2-1 win over Maidstone United at Grange Reserve on Saturday.
West Point has drawn North City Lions away in this Saturday’s first round.
In other first-round fixtures, Point Cook will host Bundoora United and Truganina Hornets will travel to Glen Waverley.