CAPTAIN Jamie Whisken labelled Poole Town “rusty” as Dolphins returned to league action with a 3-0 defeat at Hartley Wintney.

Due to a combination of bad weather, cup runs and motorway closures, Dolphins had not featured in Southern League South since a disappointing draw with Truro City on October 15 – a result that saw them let slip a 3-0 lead.

Dolphins conceded three goals again but this time with no reply, as they went down to mid-table Hartley, who also dumped them out of the FA Trophy last month.

Club stalwart Whisken, who has captained the side since 2014, told the Daily Echo: “I’d have to say the long break has definitely played a part.

“I think that night we definitely looked rusty all over the park.

“I think now that game has been and gone, we can get back into the swing of things and make a massive improvement on Saturday (against Walton Casuals).”

Dolphins fell behind early at the Memorial Playing Fields, with Steve Duff latching on to a long ball over the top and converting after just six minutes.

Poole’s misery was compounded in first-half stoppage time when Ty Smith converted a penalty, before the hosts rounded off the scoring in the second half thanks to Adam Cornell.

Whisken said: “We went into the match thinking of it as a fresh start – forgetting the two cup games to move on and start our league form back up again.

“With that early goal, it felt like we were carrying on with our past two games, which we really didn’t want to do.

“So that was a bit of a kick in the teeth early on in the game, and the way they play, it was always going to be tough once you were a goal down.”

Tom Killick’s men are eighth in the division with 23 points from their opening 11 fixtures.

They have as many as five games in hand on three of the teams above them, including leaders Chesham.

“It’s very frustrating,” Whisken added, when asked about the postponements.

“Obviously, I’ve been at the club a while so I know what our pitch is like, you can see on a Friday evening when the rain is quite heavy, there’s a 90 per cent chance the match will be off.

“But you still prepare as you normally would ahead of the call on the Saturday morning. It’s definitely frustrating for the whole team, because we’re training throughout the weeks for these games and they’re not coming.

“You can do as much training as you like but it will never keep you as fit as a match would.”

Dolphins: Cairney, Gleditsch (Grange, 56), Leslie-Smith, Spetch, Whisken, Holmes, Carmichael, Moore, Dennett (Baker, 60), Brooks, Bedford (Jackson, 18). Unused subs: Smeeton, Phillips.