Northland FC coach Dan Johnston is realistic about his side's 3-0 defeat to Takapuna AFC in their Lotto NRFL Division Two tie.
In their Far North debut at BaySport Waipapa, Northland FC showed defensive stoutness through the first 70 minutes before the class of Takapuna shone through to end the home team's resistance.
About 300 fans turned out for a good afternoon of football and while they may have left disappointed with the result, they couldn't fault the spectacle.
Johnston said he was happy with his charges as they held off the competition favourites for the majority of the match.
"I said to the guys at the end their attitude, work rate and effort was top notch. At the end of the day we just got outclassed by a very good Takapuna team," he said.
"They've got some great players and they'll destroy some teams this year.
"Their plan nullified our plan. We like to attack using our four backs but they left four up front which meant our fullbacks had to stay back.
"We didn't really have a plan B for that because no one has done that before. It was a really brave tactic from them."
Northland's defensive core worked overtime in the first half as Takapuna flexed their attacking muscle to no avail.
Goalkeeper Shane Stanners was impenetrable as he strung together a series of impressive saves.
Stand-in captain Josh Appledoorn lauded his performance with the gloves.
"It's the best performance I've ever seen from Shane. He made some great saves for us," he said.
"When he stopped the penalty it really lifted our spirits. He added a quite a few good one-on-one saves which helped us out."
The second half started in much the same vein, with Northland holding out multiple attacking raids.
It wasn't until the 71st minute that Takapuna finally breached the net as sub Thomson Nkoy completed a fine finish.
Goals to Tommy Miller three minutes later and Jack Taylor five minutes from time sealed the three points for the visitors.
Northland didn't just suffer on the scoresheet as captain Steve Schimmel suffered a potentially season-ending injury early in the first spell, rupturing an Achilles tendon.
Johnston said it was tough to lose a player of that calibre but they had a strong squad able to fill in for him.
"He's our best player and captain. He's a great leader and very inspirational," he said.
"It's disappointing to lose him which is devastating for him. But that's what the squad is for.
"The players we brought on did a great job. Calvin Erick was excellent after playing 60 minutes for the reserves.
"Losing Schimmy is a massive blow, and I want to wish him a speedy recovery on behalf of all the boys."
Northland head back down towards Auckland next week for their clash against Albany.
Northland FC 0
Takapuna AFC 3 (Thomson Nkoy 71', Tommy Miller 74', Jack Taylor 85')