Promoted Selston were given a reality check after a surging start to their East Midlands Counties League campaign when they were thumped 4-0 at Birstall United on Tuesday.
Opening 3-1 wins at Barrow and Graham Street Prims had shown the Central Midlands League championships could compete at this next level.
But they came off the rails at Birstall, who finished third last year, where they also had Grant Hackett red-carded for a head butt before the break.
“It was a big learning curve last night,” admitted manager Craig Weston.
“After the match I didn’t blow my top. We have got to take it on the chin and we will come out stronger and be more prepared for opposition like that.
“We have moved up a league and you can see the speed and sharpness of it.
“But we are quite capable as a squad to get up to that level and we have done before.
“It’s a learning curve for me as well as you know who you have to play against and how you’ve got to play these games.
“In general it’s been a good, solid start. We were over the moon with the first two results. Last night was a setback but there is no need to panic.”
Weston continued: “It was quite pleasing to start off with two 3-1 wins, but obviously we knew there were going to be better sides in the league.
“It was a little bit disappointing last night as we knew we had let ourselves down with one or two moments of madness which cost us.
“We said to the lads that when you are going up the levels you are coming up against better opposition, better strikers, and when you make silly mistakes like that you get punished for them rather than the leagues we’ve come out of where you might get away with it and be let off.
“This is better quality opposition and they make you pay for it.”
On the sending-off incident, Weston said: “We huffed and puffed, but to go in 2-0 down at the break and have had a man sent off was a massive blow.
“It was always going to be a tough ask against a team like them as we knew they were a strong side.
“It would have been hard enough with 11 men, let alone losing a man as well.
“It was just a tackle. Both lads got up and went head to head. They said Grant had butted him but he said they had just both touched heads. Their man went down and their bench went crackers – really over the top – and the referee took action.
“We told the referee to check if he had marked him. He hadn’t, but he was rolling around like he’d been pole-axed.
“But I said to Grant at half-time don’t even get into that situation where you could be goaded into doing something like that.”
With no game scheduled for Saturday, Selston must wait until Tuesday to play again when they travel to Anstey Nomads.
As always, Selston’s early games are all away until the cricket season is complete on their home ground next month.
“That’s not a bad thing, we’ve always done it and we’re used to it,” said Weston.
“It’s a good chance to get some away games out the way, get some points on the board, then you can look forward to having quite a few home games come thick and fast.
“It’s a bit disappointing we’ve got another blank Saturday, though, as after a defeat, you want to get back in action and get it out your system.”