A “deflated” Holbeach United joint-manager Graham Drury wasted no time in admitting that his side had blown a golden opportunity to make history in the FA Vase.
The Tigers failed to make their second-half dominance count, despite an equaliser from Jake Duffy, and paid the price when conceding an extra-time winner to Kent side Erith & Belvedere at Carter’s Park on Saturday.
But Holbeach don’t have long to lick their wounds because there is the small matter of the UCL Premier Division title challenge to rejoin, starting with a trip to 18th-placed Harrowby United tonight.
Drury said: “Obviously going out of the competition is a killer because I really believe we could have gone a little bit further, if not all the way.
“But we’re out of it and credit to them, they dug in during the first period of extra-time and swung the pendulum their way.
“I take nothing away from them celebrating because they deserved the victory, but the concern I’ve got is the goals we’re conceding.
“We’ve conceded eight goals in three games and if we classed the Grantham Town game (Lincolnshire FA Senior Trophy), it would be ten goals in four games.
“Kern Miller doesn’t look the same player without Danny Spencer and from keeping nine clean sheets, we’ve conceded eight goals in three games.
“If you don’t stop that rot, you’ll lose games of football.”
Holbeach were hampered by the loss of Spencer whose hamstring injury flared up after just 17 minutes of the game when the Tigers and Deres were level at 1-1.
Spencer, who revealed after the game that he is leaving Holbeach in two weeks to relocate to Australia, said: “All the lads are disappointed but it took a big effort for us to get back into the game at 2-1 down and I think that told a bit in extra-time.
“Erith were a bit more lively, their legs were a bit fresher and on the balance of the 90 minutes, we’re disappointed that we didn’t win the game when I felt we were the better side.
“But we gave away two sloppy goals and in extra-time, I think you’ve got to say ‘fair play to Erith’ because they had a bit more urgency, fresher legs and they came out on top.”
The Tigers now have two fronts to fight on, with the UCL Premier Division title still within reach because of their four games in hand on leaders
AFC Rushden & Diamonds who are 11 points in front.
Drury said: “The first port of call is to try to stop conceding goals and if we get that right, we’ll always score goals.
“Lee Dube has come a long from being on the bench at Oadby Town in the league below to now being on 20-odd goals in the division above.
“That’s all credit to Lee because he’s listened, worked hard and learned a bit from us.
“I’ve seen his improvement as time has gone on and there are times when I’ve had him out on the field before games and worked with him on areas around the pitch.”
Drury had no complaints about the red card against Matty Nolan, putting the striker’s late challenge on Erith defender Sam Groombridge down to “pure frustration about what the referee was saying on the pitch”.
“I’m not going to knock the referee because he didn’t lose us the game,” Drury admitted.
“It was our organisation from the back on the third goal, so I’ve got no complaints about the referee.”
Spencer added: “Having got back to 2-2, we never really gave it a go and in extra-time, Erith were the better team.”