London Lions suffered a huge reality check a week before the season starts with a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Berkhamsted in the Herts Charity Cup.
Lions manager Tony Gold was without six regular first team players through injury, illness and holiday. In fact at one point the game was close to being forfeited as Lions only had eleven men with no subs.
However, Gold used the game to have a look at a number of new faces including David Cohen, Adam Klein and the returning Ben Lampert. Unfortunately for the majority of the 90 minutes it was men against boys and certain Lions players just simply were not up to class and quality required.
Berkhamsted are a team everything Lions aspire to be. Well organised, disciplined, strong with a tremendous local support and backing. It is easy to see why they have gained two promotions in as many years and ended up finishing 34 points clear of Lions last season.
For the first five minutes of the game Lions were like rabbits in head lights. Berkhamsted could have been two up inside three minutes but for a good save from keeper Danny Berliner and then some luck from the crossbar.
Deservedly, although somewhat harshly, Berkhamsted finally took the lead thanks to the referee awarding a dubious penalty having indicated Adam Myeroff challenged unfairly for a header following a Berko corner by leaning into his player with an elbow. The Berko penalty taker dispatched the ball coolly to make it 1-0.
Lions settled as the game wore on. Kyle Bentwood and Aron Barnes were two Lions players who started to stand out. Ben Lampert then had a great chance to level for the Lions but he shot straight at the keeper rather than opting for either side of the keeper and the chance had gone.
Lions then found themselves 2-0 down. Myeroff and Cohen got in a mess on the edge of the box and the Berko No. 11 nicked in between them taking the ball and calmly tucking it away past the stranded Berliner.
Berko took full advantage of Lions weaknesses especially in the full-back areas and time and again continued to cause problems.
As the half was drawing to a close Berko went 3-0 thanks again to the referee awarding another penalty. This time there were no complaints as Klein, who probably wished he was back in Vienna, made a senseless tackle in the box playing the man and not the ball. Once again the Berko penalty taker made no mistake.
Lions had worked hard in the first-half but poor individual mistakes and a lack of quality had made a difficult job virtually impossible.
The only thing Lions could do now was to put that half behind them and try and go out and win the second-half.
Although the forward players worked hard in Ben Ellis, TJ Keterman, Lampert and Barnes in all honesty they never looked like breaking through a well organised and strong Berko rear guard.
After a bright start to the second-half, Lions conceded a third penalty eight minutes after the restart. Myeroff was at fault this time but to his relief Berko missed the spot kick.
Lions continued to try but just could not match their fitter, stronger and more organised opponents.
Berko made it 4-0 with goal of the game. I delightful cross from the left which Klein could not stop fell between Cohen and Myeroff with neither reacting leaving the unmarked Berko forward a free header which he converted.
With 20 minutes left it was now a case of damage limitation for Lions. However Berko went on to score twice more. First Myeroff got muscled off the ball in the box for the Berko forward to muster another one on one with Berliner and with class he curled the ball into the top corner.
And then, Bentwood, Lions' man of the match, was beaten for pace and the Berko No. 11 broke free to bury the ball in the bottom corner.
The 6-0 scoreline was a true reflection on the game and Lions could have no complaints they were well and truly beaten.
Lions manager Tony Gold summed up his teams display. He said: "This is hopefully the wake up call the players needed. Yes it is true we were without several regulars today but given the opinion some of the players who did play today have of themselves I would have expected a lot more.
"Work rate and effort are not enough to win games you need to have a certain amount of quality and that was severely lacking today.
"Bar three or four players, the majority have taken pre-season for granted and today that was highlighted in bold against a side who do things the right way.
"The result speaks for itself and now I hope the players will knuckle down and take there football a little more seriously otherwise they will experience a lot more results like this throughout the season and on a regular basis.
"I gave a number of players an opportunity today to prove to me that they can make the step up. They tried hard but through no fault of there own just couldn't cope.
"Obviously I didn't have any subs so couldn't make the changes I felt were needed at half-time and so we were open to the same mistakes time after time.
"The good news is today was a fantastic indicator for me and now I have a platform to work from and the players know exactly where they are in relation to this level of football."
Asked about the players he has lost to other clubs, he added: "Any team would suffer from the players we have lost. The difference is I don't have the luxury of replacing that quality like for like.
"Had the players who have left looked at things slightly differently and been a bit more loyal to the club - which has supported them and helped them in many ways - then with what we currently have as a player base we could have had a real opportunity of doing something special in our league.
"As it is, I can't worry about what I haven't got and must focus on what I have got and somehow try and get the best out of them starting with three points at London Colney next week."
London Lions: Danny Berliner, Adam Klein, Adam Myeroff, Aron Barnes, Kyle Bentwood, David Soutar, TJ Keterman, Aviel Schwarz, Ben Lampert, David Cohen, Ben Ellis