DARREN Manning admits Hullbridge Sports must improve if they are to register a positive result at Aveley on Monday.

Sports suffered a 3-0 defeat to Witham Town as their first ever Isthmian North season got off to a disappointing start.

And Manning felt his players, who were crowned the Essex Senior League champions on the final day of last term, were given a reality check.

The Hullbridge boss said: “The result was awful and the performance in the first half was way below standard.

“The basics of football were neglected. The general desire, work ethic and basics were totally discarded, particularly in the first half hour.

“The third goal killed us just before half-time and, if I’m honest, I couldn’t recognise my team in the first half.

“We looked like the team I know in the second half because we kept the ball, had them on the backfoot and drastically improved.

“We know it’s going to be an uphill struggle and we’re going upstream without a paddle.

“But it’s time for us to knuckle down and go again.

“We know we’re going to have results like that this season and we won’t have all the glory we had last term.

“It’s a little bit of a reality check for the players because we may have won the title last season, but we’re a nobody in this league.”

Witham opened the scoring with 18 minutes on the clock as George Bugg beat the offside trap before calmly lobbing the ball over Sports goalkeeper Rob Budd.

And Witham put clear daylight between the two sides with two goals in the dying moments of the first half.

Former Basildon United and Great Wakering Rovers striker Marcus Bowers diverted a corner into the back of the net from close range before Oliver Emsden added his name to the scoresheet by tapping home with the final kick of the opening period.

Manning may make changes to his side as Sports look to bounce back when they make the trip to Parkside to face promotion favourites Aveley.

“There are a few players that weren’t in the squad against Witham so we have some legs to bring in if we need to,” added Manning.

“It will be Aveley’s first home game of the season, so it’s going to be extremely tough.

“We have a gameplan in mind and we will look to implement that.

“But if we play like we did in the first half against Witham, we could be in trouble.”