There was plenty of food for thought for Baldock Town manager Rob Bates after a disappointing start to their Spartan South Midlands League Spring Cup campaign.

The Reds were beaten 4-1 by Aylesbury Vale Dynamos, Dan Lambeth getting a first-half hat-trick, for the visitors, and although Ashley Hay pulled one back midway through the second half, Jake Baldwin restored the three-goal advantage late on.

And for Baldock boss Rob Bates, it showed that the lockdown has had an effect on some grassroots football players, his included.

He said: "You could tell in the first half that the lads haven’t played for a while. They were nowhere near fit and Aylesbury were

"They knocked the ball around, made it do the work and we struggled.

"We changed it second half, made three subs and to be fair it changed the game.

"We had chances and if we get it to 3-2 in the last 15 minutes, it’s all to play for.

"But the keeper has made a great save and when we went for it, went to 4-2-4, they’ve scored and it’s killed the game.

"There’s a lot of work to be done but we’ve had five months off. That’s never happened in my 30-odd years in football.

"The boys have got a bit complacent through lockdown and the [lack of fitness] shows, it does show."

The Spring Cup is a newly-created competition and comes in lieu of the curtailed league fixtures.

And while it may not carry as much kudos as other competitions, it is still one Bates wants to do as well as possible in, even if he still has one eye firmly on next season.

He said: "I’m a winner and it doesn’t matter whether it is a pre-season game or this, I want to win and I want the boys to be winners.

"We have to win, whatever we’re doing, whether that’s training or a game.

"I want that winning mentality in the squad. It’s a very young side, I think the average age is only 21 and you have to educate these boys to be winners on the pitch.

"It’s as simple as that.

"We’ve got five or six games and then we’ve got pre-season, which is another eight games, so we’ve got lots of opportunities to experiment and look at different personnel.

"We will get it right for the first league game in August."