Haverhill Rovers are gutted by the missed opportunity against Heybridge Swifts in the FA Cup, as manager Ben Cowling believed that the win had been there for the taking on Saturday.
Rovers drew 1-1 with the higher-league Essex side at the weekend, sparking Tuesday evening’s replay away at Scraley Road —but Cowling has ‘held his hands up’ in accepting that his team were ‘completely outplayed’ in the 6-1 routing.
In hindsight, he said, the team had their chances in the first tie and could have won the game to progress to the next round at the first time of asking.
“We had the chance to win on Saturday and they were lucky,” Cowling said.
“I don’t want to be too harsh on the team. It would be very critical to say we should have won, but we certainly missed an opportunity.”
The team played a 10-man Heybridge for 75 minutes at The New Croft on Saturday, after ex-Rovers player Ryan Henshaw was sent off for illegally denying Aaron Forshaw a goalscoring opportunity.
Despite numerous chances, though, Rovers were unable to add to Jordan Palmer’s goal as the match ended 1-1.
“The feeling is just disappointment but not because we played badly at all. We were just completely outplayed in that first half on Tuesday.”
The team went into the dressing room 5-0 down at the break, as Swifts’ Juan Luque struck after only two minutes, followed by Sam Bantick and Luque again before the game was even 10 minutes old.
Rovers were left reeling at 3-0 down and Luke Callander made it worse after 30 minutes when he fired an unstoppable shot past Charlie Turner — the nail in the coffin came soon after as Harrison Chatting slotted home to make it five.
Cowling said: “They were unbelievable in that first 45 minutes, we’re not ashamed to hold our hands up and accept we couldn’t cope.
“But I am proud of the way the team conducted themselves, both on and off the pitch. We represented our club well and that’s great.
“The result didn’t go our way but there’s still a long season in the league and there are still plenty of positives to take from this experience.
“The FA Cup is very tough, you’re playing teams above you and you don’t, in a lot of ways, expect to go that far.
“Of course it’s a bit of a knock to our confidence to lose by that scoreline but I don’t expect the disappointment to last too long.
“We’re still unbeaten in the league and the way we played the second half on Tuesday night is very commendable.”
Rovers, as Cowling pointed out, drew the second half by a goal each — Bantick scored his second on 61 minutes to take the score to 6-0 before substitute Rory Jebb grabbed a late consolation.
“We could have capitulated after the half-time,” Cowling added. “But the way we fought back showed a lot of grit and determination.
“If you put that first half to one side, there’s a lot we can take from the game into our next league match.”
Rovers will host Walsham-le-Willows at home on Saturday (3pm) and then head to neighbouring Newmarket Town on Tuesday night (7.45pm) looking to maintain their positive start.
Cowling said: “Walsham will be a tough game, they’ve started their season well also but I’m confident we have the ability.”
n Rovers have been drawn away to Ipswich Wanderers in the first round of the Omni Freight Services Suffolk Premier Cup, to be played in November.