TOM Killick admitted Poole Town's opening day defeat by Southern League South rivals Hartley Wintney had been a "bitter pill to swallow".

The Dolphins manager yesterday watched his side fall to a 3-1 reverse at the Black Gold Stadium against the step three new boys.

A sluggish first-half display left Poole 2-0 down and with a mountain to climb.

Killick, who served the first of a three-game touchline ban, said he was pleased by his side's improved performance in the second half.

He told the Daily Echo: "To lose at home in the first game of the season was a bitter pill to swallow.

"I think how you approach it mentally is important. If you are full of tension and apprehension, it is going to be reflected in the way you play and that seemed to be the case for us.

"Everyone feels confident coming into the season when you have a strong squad of players, which I think we have, and when you then perform in the way we did it is a big setback.

"We can't dwell on it. We have to try to pull ourselves together and we only have until Tuesday to do that."

The hosts started in nervous fashion and it was Hartley Wintney who opened the scoring in the 25th minute through Liam Eagle.

Poole's woes were compounded just 10 minutes when they conceded a penalty, converted by Jake Baxter.

Dolphins got back in the game minutes into the second half with a goal from Franklyn Clarke.

Killick's side pressed and went in search of an equaliser, but left themselves open at the back.

This ultimately decided the game and Hartley Wintney skipper Nicholas Ciardini put it to bed in the final 10 minutes by notching his side's third.

Reflecting on a mixed performance, Killick said: "The first half was frustrating because we knew it was important to start in a positive way and try to get on the front foot.

"We felt if we could stamp our authority on the game early, then they could start to realise there is a difference in quality between the two leagues and it might peg back their belief.

"We also knew if the opposite happened they were going to relish the challenge and the occasion. Unfortunately, in the first half, that is exactly what happened.

"We didn't start well enough, they gained confidence and were rightly in front at half-time.

"I know it is easy to say but if we had performed like we did in the second half for the whole of the game, I think it would have been a different story.

"It wasn't a game where we were inferior throughout. We were inferior in the first half and superior in the second.

"It wasn't enough to get us any points, but if you are going to lose a game, I think you would rather the second half was your better half because it is easier to take that into Tuesday."

Killick said he hoped Marvin Brooks would be available for Poole's trip to Salisbury tomorrow (7.45pm) but Jack Dickson is unlikely to be fit.

Dolphins: Hutchings, Alawode-Williams, Smeeton (Leslie-Smith), Spetch, Whisken, Pettefer (Devlin), Griffin, Moore, Brooks, Clarke, Dickson (Grange). Unused subs: Balmer, O’Connor (g/k).