Cottesmore AFC lose their first match of the new Leicestershire Senior League season
Cottesmore manager Rich Giblin feels it could take his side time to find their feet this season after they lost their opening Leicestershire Senior League match on Saturday.
The Rutland side went down to a two-goal away reversal at Hathern in their Premier Division opener after being forced to field a much-changed line-up.
Prolific frontman Tom Pope has joined United Counties League side Holwell Sports along with last season's captain Jordan Smith and Tom Bendle while Eessa Nasser has moved closer to his Leicester home by signing for Saffron Dynamo.
Midfield linchpin Danny Seals is currently suspended while Craig Attwood was unavailable for the trip to face a Hathern side who are expected to be in the mix for honours.
Colton Cropper is also ruled out with a long-term injury while Jake Robson remains sidelined with summer signings Mark Tinsley and Ethan Milne both working their way back to full fitness after a difficult pre-season for the Westray Park side.
Giblin said: "Pre-season has been a real slog and every manager that I've spoken to has had the same issues.
"It's been a trying time because of the lack of availability of players who are either away or working.
"We have had a reasonably settled side for three seasons so it is going to take a bit of time but we will just crack on with it.
"We will get through the first few weeks and then see where we are after six games.
"It was disappointing to lose on Saturday because we're not really used to it but I've got a good group of lads and I'm fairly sure we will put it right in the coming weeks.
"When we find our feet then hopefully we will be back up where we want to be.
"It will be a different season but that's not to say we can't do something because we are perfectly capable of being in that top group.
"We just need to find that little groove to get the results going. We are just not quite as sharp and where we need to be at the moment but that will come."
Cottesmore had made a bright start to Saturday's league opener but were unable to turn their early possession into goals.
Hathern then grew into the contest as the match wore on and took the lead two minutes before half-time as Jack McLachlan's strike crept into the Cottesmore net.
The visitors then lost Darren Wilke to a hamstring injury early in the second period and, despite going close after forcing a succession of corners, Hathern doubled their lead when McLachlan pounced on a rebound after Cottesmore goalkeeper Alex Brown had made a save from a free-kick.
The second goal put the contest beyond Cottesmore who face another tricky trip tonight (Tuesday) when they visit Thurnby Rangers.
Giblin added: "It was OK on Saturday. We had a couple of half chances that we didn't take and then it has kind of come back to sting us later in the game.
"We have just got to hold our hands up and admit that it wasn't the best of performances by a long stretch but on another day we might have got something from the game.
"Lady luck probably wasn't really with us but you can argue that you make your own luck.
"We have just got to take it on the chin because Hathern is a difficult place to go to. We did some things well and there are others that we must improve on.
"It wasn't too bad as a starting point because we are still finding where we need to be.
"We are in a bit of transitional phase at the moment. We have lost some players and brought others in and are still finding our feet on how it all works."