WESTERN NSW Mariners FC had a rough welcome to a new NSW Premier Leagues 3 season in a 5-1 loss to one of the competition heavyweights, SD Raiders FC, at Moorebank.
The Mariners have returned home from the season opener with several things to smile about, even with a scoreline that might suggest otherwise.
Raiders struck three times within the first half hour of play but the visiting Mariners were a much healthier looking outfit from that point onwards.
Following Jaiden Culbert's successful header off a Jeremy Judge free kick the Mariners brought the score back to 3-1 and began to trouble their opponents in patches of play.
Raiders saw off the positive Mariners patch of play and added two more goals to complete a convincing win, with five different scorers getting in on the action.
Mariners coach Mark Rooke said there needs to be more willingness to return to a proper defensive shape when the ball is given away.
"The boys were ready and willing to play but mentally I still don't think we're quite there, and you could see that in the first half," he said.
"As soon as a couple of things don't go our way the demons start to appear, turnovers happen and we don't get back quite quick enough defensively.
"Next thing you know they're in behind us, crosses come in and three goals scored exactly the same way."
The good sign came following half-time where Rooke said his side applied themselves much better at both ends of the field.
"They picked themselves up in the last 15 minutes of the first half and got themselves back into the game. We more ball and created a few more chances," he said.
"At 3-1 I thought we still had a chance in the second half if we could change things up. The boys adapted to that well.
"For the first 20 minutes of the next half I'd say we were the better team. The difference is that they were more clinical with the ball and finishing their chances in the front third of the pitch than we were.
"I think the score flatters them a little. We had our chances and didn't do well enough but I don't think 5-1 is a fair indication of the match.
"We're back to training and looking to rectify several things quickly."
Western are hoping to hit back this Saturday night at Lithgow against another losing side from the opening round, Dulwich Hill FC.
Meanwhile an understaffed Western women's side went down to hosts Central Coast Mariners FC in their season opener at Lisarow, north of Gosford.
Central Coast came away 3-0 winners in the NSW Premier Leagues 2 match.
Western will welcome UNSW FC to Lithgow for this Sunday's second round match.