It was little surprise that Garry Hill’s post-match thoughts were far from favourable as Fleet fell to their biggest opening-day reverse since 1990.
“I think we’ve seen it all today,” Hill told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “A very hard game to sum up. You look forward as a manager, as a player, as a supporter to the first game of the season in respect of anticipation and hope that you get a result and try and build on from it. But within 10 minutes of the game, we [can’t] reflect on anything positive.”
With two away trips to Bromley and AFC Fylde to come, the manager knows the players must quickly pick themselves up from the disappointment of today’s defeat.
“We’re looking for a reaction, of course, and I’d like to feel players will go away hurting tonight,” he said.” I hope they are, and then get in to training on Monday morning and prepare properly and respond and react how we want and how we need.”
The Fleet boss had few complaints about skipper Jack King’s sending-off and he knew it was uphill all the way for his men after that.
“Kingy was sold short in respect of the ball inside to him and what way do you look at it?” he said. “Some referees would have sent him, some might have thought differently and given a [yellow] card as there was a still a fair way to goal but I have no complaints with that. The referee’s got to make a decision and he’s done that.
“That was hard enough to take on the chin so early and then we conceded a soft goal within two minutes which looked ‘uncharacteristic’, however you word it. So you battle hard, you keep your shape, you come through that 10, 15 minutes, you get an equalising goal, a good one from John Goddard. To be honest, at half-time I felt even though they had the extra man that we could get something out of the game and I think we were starting to.”
Fleet improved for a period in the second-half and home supporters were certainly more inspired until Halifax put the game to bed with two goals in quick succession.
“About 15, 20 minutes in the second half, they were starting to give the ball away and we were starting to pick balls up and starting to grow in confidence and we had the the counterattacks,” Hill said. “But out of the blue, they find themselves 2-1 up and it was always going to be tough to react.
“It was at a time when we were getting into it and they’ve punished us. Then it was 3-1 and game over really. You start thinking about things ahead, what you do with players and try and play for the future going into Tuesday evening. The last goal deep into injury time sums the day up.”
And the manager felt his side slipped below the levels required and expected of them.
“Standards today by people in areas of the team, from a defensive point of view, was very poor. That’s how the day’s turned out which you don’t plan on. But you’ve got to clear your heads and bounce back on Monday for training and the game on Tuesday. The good thing about it is that the games do come thick and fast early on.”
Fleet played 82 minutes with 10 men but Hill thought that wasn’t the sole reason for their demise.
“You can’t give goals away irrespective of if we’ve got 10 or 11 men on the field of play in the manner that we gave goals away today,” he said. “I think people will make mistakes, that’s football. But people have walked away and felt not only disappointed but dumbfounded in the manner of the goals we conceded.
“It’s very hard at 1-0 down, players sent off in the first 10 minutes and the standard of the goal we conceded was hard to swallow straight after the sending-off. I’m not looking at it as an excuse, but then on a very warm day, they’ve got the extra man, they find themselves in front and getting in at half-time, we did well to contain the game at 1-1.
“You’ve still got to realise with 20 minutes to go it was still 1-1. All of a sudden, the second goal knocked the stuffing out of us. I wouldn’t say the players weren’t putting the effort in, it wasn’t down to that but I think the goals conceded today, irrespective of six players making their debut, the manner of [those] goals was very disappointing.”
Listen to the interview below.