The effervescence wasn't there for Christmas and the bubbly certainly isn't there to herald in the new year after Hawke's Bay United have succumbed to two defeats on the trot.
The Ruben Parker Hanks-captained Thirsty Whale Bay United went down 4-0 to Team Wellington when the national summer league resumed at David Farrington Park in Wellington on Sunday.
Down 3-0 at halftime, the signs were ominous for visiting co-coaches Chris Greatholder and Bill Robertson, also a player.
"It's a cliche, obviously, that we didn't start the game as well as we wanted to," said Greatholder, believing it wasn't through a lack of trying but more a case of how clinical the hosts were.
It was hard to go past the presence of former Bay United players — Hamish Watson, Sam Mason-Smith, captain Mario Barcia, Andy Bevin and Nathanael Hailemariam — who assumed mantles of responsibility in helping dismantle their old franchise team.
Two upper cuts from striker Watson — who got a call up to the Phoenix from Bay United in 2016 to resurrect his A-League career after he was released two years earlier — in the space of the opening five minutes had rattled the visitors playing in white strips.
"They were all around the box and the ball was kind of headed high and Hamish Watson's just cracked one in — volleyed into the top corner," he said of the third-minute goal following a cornerkick from Rory McKeown.
Watson plunged the dagger into the heart of Bay United two minutes later for a 2-0 lead.
He ran down the left flank to do justice to an Oliver Bassett pass before beating Hanks for his brace although he came precariously close to bagging a hat trick on the far post later in the match.
Bassett again became provider, this time curling a well-timed cornerkick that Mason-Smith — who left Park Island for Stellenbosch FC in South Africa in 2018 before returning the following summer — tucked the ball away into the net past Hanks with a diving header for a 3-0 gulf in the 36th minute.
Hailemariam put Bay United added salt to the wound in two minutes of referee Ben O'Connell's time when the substitute from point-blank range after a calculated pass from Scott Midgley.
It seemed as if Team Wellington goalkeeper Keegan Smith had a relatively slow day at the office.
It was disappointing to concede two goals to set-piece play but Greatholder lauded the hosts.
"We know now they can do as some damage to us, especially on the counter going forward ... but they're a very good side who have quality throughout."
He felt Bay United had created numerous chances in the last period but the Wellingtonians deserved the three points although Bay United had done okay when taking into consideration the benchmark.
"At the end of the day we've got to take the positives from the game from a decent opposition and, I think, we're as good as most sides in the league so if we perform like this again we'll [claim] points," Greatholder said. "I'm quite reflective and not too disappointed."
Veteran Napier City Rovers defender Danny Wilson was the surprise starter in the XI, making a return to the Bay United squad.
"We've signed him up with Kaden Atkins playing the first three games before Christmas and Karan [Mandair] has obviously left us from the squad for the US," he said of the Rovers midfielder who is on an American university scholarship. "He [Wilson] reads the game well and is getting on a bit now so he finds himself in the right areas."
Wilson looked vulnerable at times but his ability to position himself under duress put him in good stead to play really well.
Atkins was on a family holiday arranged before the season had kicked off and was a timely break for someone who had played just about every minute of every game and had just turned 18.
Greatholder said Bay United looked a little anaemic off the bench so boosting the personnel was imperative.
"We're still on the lookout and we're still working with a couple of players to bring at least one more in to build mores strength off the bench."
He said the Bay franchise's resources were limited with what they could offer in a confined market.
"We want people who'll come in new and be proud to play for Hawke's Bay."
In other matches at the weekend, Wellington Phoenix Reserves drew 1-all with Southern United, Auckland City FC thumped Waitakere United 6-2, Hamilton Wanderers, who beat Bay United 2-1 before Christmas, had Canterbury United's measure, 3-1, while Tasman United stunned Eastern Suburbs 2-0.