Connor Pain says the Mariners have no excuses after being dumped out of the FFA Cup by Blacktown City.
Central Coast were knocked out of the competition in the round of 32 by the NSW NPL club.
Blacktown City upset the A-League side 3-2 thanks to goals from Joey Gibbs and Roberto Speranza.
Pain played the full 90 minutes in left midfield against City. The 23-year old described the defeat as "disappointing".
"We went there with a job to try and win and get through to the next round, as everybody does," he told FourFourTwo.
"Without making too many excuses, we had a few boys missing and we’re in pre-season.
"But we went there to win and we went there prepared to win and for whatever reason we didn’t execute our game plan perfectly well and despite having the ball for the vast majority of the game we still managed to cop three goals.
"From our perspective it wasn’t good enough. The good thing is it’s so early in pre-season and we get plenty of weeks to rectify this before round one with our full squad complete."
Blacktown City were the second NPL outfit this year to knock out an A-League club in the Cup. Pain played in the NPL in 2013 with Bentleigh Greens.
The winger believes the gulf between A-League sides and NPL clubs is getting smaller.
"I think the gap is closing," he said.
"I think it’s always been reasonable [the level], however it’s hard to say that it's improving in a way. The A-League teams don’t get to play at home do they when they play state league teams.
"It would be interesting to see these sort of games played on better surfaces in front of bigger crowds.
"But I’m not trying to make excuses, I think the NPL is getting a lot better. I’m a product of the NPL so I can’t speak more highly of what they’re doing.
"I know my local club Bentleigh Greens are doing really well down in Victoria and producing some great players. I think the NPL teams are definitely getting stronger."