AFC Sudbury manager Jamie Godbold admitted there was big disappointment hanging in the home dressing room after their record-breaking FA Trophy run was brought to a halt by National League Macclesfield Town on Saturday.
Two soft first-half goals had always kept the prospect of a cup upset at an arm’s length against the side who ply their trade two leagues higher in the non-league pyramid.
And asked for his assessment of the second round proper tie, Godbold said: “Probably one of disappointment.
“We spoke about what we wanted as a group of players before the game.
“We didn’t want any regrets and we wanted people to work hard, and I think we got that.
“It was just lacking a bit of quality or concentration and I am really disappointed in the first two goals.
“We had said that if they were going to score, let’s make them really good goals and I think the first two goals were really preventable.
“It was a case of switching off and when you are up against a Conference Premier side it leaves you with a bit of a mountain to climb.”
After Grimsby Town loannee Rhys Browne had fired The Silkmen ahead in the 23rd minute, capitalising on a long clearance from his goalkeeper, it only took another nine minutes for AFC to be staring down a two-goal deficit when Anthony Dudley was allowed to cut in from the right and finish from just inside the area.
Sudbury, who had gone into the game without targetman James Baker, who was away on work business and left-back Jack Wilkinson (hamstring) as well as midfielder Erkan Okay (knee), saw plenty of the ball in the first period, but were only able to manage one effort at goal, a pot-shot from range from Sam Bantick sailing comfortably over.
The beginning of the second half saw The Yellows start much the better side, but again it was in the final third that things did not materialise into chances, with Macclesfield eventually adding to their tally in the 84th minute when substitute Jack Sampson provided an angled finish from fellow replacement James Kingsley’s ball.
With the tie over, the hosts’ second shot of the match, and first on target, arrived through Aidan Austin’s cross-cum-shot which was well held by Craig Ross at his near post.
But the goal they were desperate to provide for their biggest crowd of the season — at 505 — did arrive in the 87th minute when Liam Wales showed a striker’s instinct to dispatch Craig Parker’s through-ball inside the near post from a central position inside the area.
Sampson and Omry Perel had late chances to make it 4-1 but it was The Yellows who were buzzing brightly around their opponent’s half with renewed energy, and a slip-up almost cost Macclesfield a nervy ending as a failed clearance left Wayne Blackman a sight of goal, only for the substitute to fire it straight at Ross. In the end the result was no disgrace for Sudbury, who played their part in the 90 minutes, though two sloppy first-half goals always meant it was very much a supporting role.
Of the second half, Godbold said: “We keep huffing and puffing and we were rewarded with a terrific goal at the end there, which gave the supporters something to go home happy about.
“There is just a sense of disappointment today, but I am really proud of how far we have come (in this competition).”
While he said it is now important to make sure they can achieve something in the league, he added: “I don’t want this to be a one-off for them.
“They have got many years ahead of them, and I said at the start in the dressing room that you can end your career counting these kinds of game on one hand.
“Take it, grasp the opportunity and if we learn from playing the likes of these it is going to make us better when we play against the teams in our own division.”
Asked if he thought they missed target-man Baker, Godbold replied: “Yes, I think we did. Having said that I think Liam Wales was terrific.
“He took his goal well and didn’t stop running all day and led the line well.
“He is obviously a different type of player to James and I guess that is the hand we are dealt with.
“We cannot dwell on what we were missing. We were missing Jack Wilkinson and Erkan Okay, but that is what a squad is for and the players that were out there today did their best.”
n Elsewhere, it was on the whole a quiet weekend for the AFC Sudbury Academy with fixtures at Cheshunt and Dulwich Hamlet being postponed due to the weather, but there was a great win for the AFC Sudbury Under-18s.
They took full advantage of postponements to move into second place in the Thurlow Nunn Youth League with a 5-0 win over local rivals Bury Town.
Midfielder Callum Watson scored twice with Callum Vincent, Callum Fuller and Malachi Lindon grabbing the other goals.
It was also a good day for goalkeeper Luca Collins, who kept a third consecutive clean sheet in this league.
n The week 38 winners of the AFC Gold fund-raiser are: 1st £100 (269), Mrs V Campbell, Jennings Racing Sudbury; 2nd £10 (212) R Bray, J & W Gaol Lane, Sudbury; 3rd £10 (174) G Woodward, Essex Ave, Sudbury.