On the surface, a 43-point loss isn’t ideal.

But don’t let the scoreboard fool you. The Northern Bullants are much closer than the numbers may show you to registering their first win of the 2021 VFL season.

The Ants fell short against Footscray at Preston City Oval on Saturday, but the way they played for the bulk of the match meant they have plenty to be pleased about heading into Thursday night’s match against Geelong.

“We had our opportunities,” assistant coach Paul Dunn said after the match.

“It’s good to be able to match up with the top sides and knowing we can go with them through games, but also knowing we need to be able to gel together and stick to the task for a lot longer and be better for a lot longer.

“We were in really strong positions in stages of the game. We were in a winning position at some stages, but we need to be able to take the opportunities – it’s the moments in the game we don’t take that often dictate the end result.”

As was the case against Box Hill last week, the Bullants were in the contest for most of the day, only to lose ground during five minute patches of quarters where the Bulldogs made it count on the scoreboard, such as when they kicked four unanswered goals late in the second term.

The Bullants were well-served by several senior players, including Ben Silvagni, who played a fine role on Bulldogs recruit Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

“In terms of standout performances, captain Tommy Wilson led the way with 40 disposals, Liam Mackie on the wing provided some good drive and defensive coverage, and some of the defenders who were given roles such as Ben Silvagni really came to the party today,” Dunn continued.

“Ben kept Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to one goal after coming off some big numbers in the last few weeks.

“Matt King did a really solid job on Ben Cavarra, a dangerous small forward for the Bulldogs, keeping him to nine disposals for the first three quarters before the Bulldogs put him inside and he did start to get a hold.”

The Bullants now have to move quickly, with only five days between the loss to Footscray and their next assignment against Geelong at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night.

According to Dunn, it’s a challenge they’re ready for.

“The group is really positive. Everyone knows where they are at and knows what is expected of them.

“As we continue to gel together and play more footy together, we are quite confident that we will be in a very, very good position.

“Sometimes it’s not how you start the year, but it’s how you end it, and we are very positive on the way the club is building, the way the group is gelling and the spirit everyone involved in the whole club is showing.

“The five-day turnaround which will be a test for the boys and their professionalism in how they recover and look after themselves to get up for the game.

“It will be fantastic for the Bullants supporters, parents and everyone to see us back in prime time.

“We will bring a good brand of Ants football on Thursday night against quality opposition.”

Northern Bullants        2.3     2.5     4.9     6.11 (47)

Footscray                       2.4     6.9    6.15   12.18 (90)

Goals – Northern Bullants: Murphy 3, Smith, Ahern, Kennedy

At Preston City Oval.