By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
IF Saturday's performance is anything to go by, the Coffs Coast Tigers are in for a long 2005.
Playing in the Premiers Cup knockout competition on the weekend, the Tigers were bundled out of contention when they were handsomely defeated 5-1 by Port Panthers.
It was a game that started badly for the local team, and then proceeded to get worse.
Starting without three regular first grade players, the Tigers were forced to take to the field with injured players, and found themselves behind on the scoreboard almost immediately.
Within three minutes Port Panthers had their first goal on the board through midfielder Josh Peir.
A long high cross into the box set up the first goal and this passage to goal continued to trouble the Tigers defence for the rest of the match.
The most disappointing aspect of the match as far as Coffs Coast were concerned was that they looked like a team that had absolutely no match practice prior to Saturday's kickoff.
Constantly, the Tigers' first touch was terrible, causing any system or attacking forays to break down time and time again.
The final scoreline of 5-1 was truly indicative of the match.
Panthers striker Josh Terelink was a constant threat to the Coffs Coast defence, scoring a goal either side of the break and assisting in another just prior to half time.
If it weren't for the stoic efforts of Tigers goal keeper Chris Edwards, Terelink may well have scored another two goals.
Despite letting in five goals, the Tigers can thank Edwards that the score didn't end up being completely embarrassing.
While Port were able to find the back of the net throughout the match, at the other end it was a different story.
Panthers giant centre back Brant Vander Linden controlled play from the back and was often used as an attacking weapon from corner kicks where his height is such an asset.
Other than the goalie Edwards, the only other Tigers player who could hold their head high by game's end, was captain Dane Dixon.
Dixon's midfield battle with Josh Peir was a highlight of the game, with both players busy at each end of the ground throughout the game.
The new Premier League competition kicks off this weekend, and the Tigers will be travelling to the Den on Saturday night to take on competition favourites Coffs United in the local derby.
According to Tigers coach Rob Harbour, he knows that his charges will go into their first round match as underdogs.
"As the season goes on, players will come back into the team, and we'll show our true ability," he said after Saturday's defeat.
"We just need to learn a few lessons from today and start again."
It appears that some lessons were learnt quickly.
Yesterday, in the playoff for third place in the Premiers Cup, Coffs Coast were able to record a 3-2 victory over North Companions.
On the back of a first half double from striker Luke Venn, the Tigers scored the winning goal in the 57th minute through young Luke Stow.
It was a battle to hold out Companions charge for a late equaliser, but the defence stood strong under the pressure.
At least not all was doom and gloom on the weekend for the Tigers as all clubs await the commencement of the new season this weekend.