Northland FC travelled without nine players to the North Shore for their Lotto NRFL Division Two clash against Albany United, and the lack of depth in the matchday squad saw the boys in blue go down 2-0.
In a physical affair that threatened to boil over at times, the hosts pulled ahead through Gareth Clark in the 15th minute who rifled home from the edge of the box, finishing a move that started from a quick turnover in the Northland half.
Niggly fouls disrupted the flow of the game and the referee struggled to keep control in a match that could have seen more than one red card, but somehow ended with all 22 players still on the pitch.
The second half started in a similar fashion and it always felt like the scorer of the second goal would go on to claim the points. Albany provided the killer blow, with Jack Hadfield scoring a slightly fortuitous second after goalkeeper Geoff Bigwood could only parry a close-range header from a corner.
Head coach Dan Johnston said the side will take a lot from the loss.
"Our squad was tested today with so many key players out but we stuck to our philosophy, giving some of the reserves and youth team players a chance to step up and prove themselves at this level."
Thomas Fahey (Central Brown) along with Reuben Nicholl (Tikipunga) and Deon Hales (Central Brown) from the Northland FC 17th grade, all made first team debuts while Stephen Lymburn (Bream Bay) made his first start for the club in goal for the reserves.
Next up is a home game against Ngongotaha, from Rotorua.