Boston United are struggling to replicate the form which saw them become such a force last season, manager Dennis Greene has admitted.
Speaking after Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Gainsborough Trinity, the Pilgrims boss conceded that performance levels have not been good enough so far this term.
“We haven’t had a great start to the season,” Greene said.
“We’re working every day to get things right, but right now something’s not right and we’re not at the level of last year.
“We need to work hard to get back to that.”
Goals from former Pilgrim Marc Newsham, who left the club to join the Blues in the summer, and Nathan Jarman ended Boston’s cup dreams in the second qualifying round.
It was Boston’s second defeat at the Northolme in the space of four weeks, following the 1-0 National League North reverse.
And after going 19 seasons without a loss in Gainsborough, a contingent of the travelling support let their frustrations be known at full time.
“When you haven’t won football matches supporters are going to be irate, and understandably so,” Greene reflected.
“There’s no-one more hurt than me today, I assure you. It’s ruined my weekend.”
It was certainly a case of frustration all round as, once again, Boston showed glimpses of the fearless free-flowing side which powered their way to third in the league standings last season.
But those moments only came in pockets of the game, and the hosts were given enough time between each of those attacks to regroup.
If Boston conceded a goal last season the team would simply shrug and line-up for the re-start, giving the impression that they knew they could still outscore their opponents.
This term, however, picking the ball out of the net leaves the team looking fragile as wounds take too long to be licked clean.
On Saturday the Pilgrims, with Jay Rollins pushed up front with Dayle Southwell to offer some more pace and muscle to the attack, began brightly, Rollins himself forcing Jan Budtz into an early save while Jarman whizzed a volley wide at the other end.
But Rollins’ 18th-minute ankle injury saw the player’s involvement - and Plan A - come to an abrupt end.
Seconds later Newsham had put the hosts in front, slotting home from close range after being gifted time to meet Jamie Yates’ long throw-in.
Jarman doubled the advantage in the 40th minute as his 20-yard free kick was powered beyond the wall and into Jason Alexander’s net.
In between those goals, Boston saw Southwell’s header clawed away by Budtz and Mark Jones’ follow-up blocked on the line by Dom Roma.
After the interval, where Henrich Ravas replaced the injured Alexander in goal, Boston showed more spirit but again failed to find the net.
Carl Piergianni and Southwell both struck the woodwork in the space of a minute while Nicky Walker saw a drive pushed away by the impressive Budtz.
At the death, Nicholas Bignall had the chance to wrap things up for the Blues, but he fired his effort wide of Ravas’ post.