South Shields joint manager Lee Picton refused to use the difference in league placings as an excuse for their FA Cup exit at the hands of Hartlepool United – insisting they expected to win the game.
Shields’ brilliant cup run came to an end at Mariners Park as they lost 2-1 against Pools in the fourth qualifying round.
The Mariners had already dumped Darlington and York City out of the competition, but having led at half-time thanks to Carl Finnigan’s strike they couldn’t stop the visitors biting back after the break with goals from Devante Rodney and Nicky Deverdics.
“It was really tough to take,” Picton admitted. “Obviously we’re bitterly disappointed because, in my opinion, the game could have quite easily gone the other way.
“It shows how far we’ve progressed but we’ve known where we’ve been for quite a while now. I don’t want to hide behind the ‘oh well they are three leagues above us’ kind of thing.
“We go into every game expecting to win and today was no different. I’m not the type of person to turn around and hide behind the difference in league placings. The game was there to be won and we didn’t quite get over the line.
“But massive credit to the lads because across five games in this cup run they’ve been outstanding. It just wasn’t our day.”
The Evo-Stik North side went close to doubling their lead just before the break, with Matty Pattison denied by Scott Loach, then hitting the crossbar, while Finnigan blasted over the top.
They paid the price for thoses misses but Picton insists it wasn’t just that spell which cost Shields a place in the first round proper of the competition.
“I think it was more than just that,” he added. “The obvious one is the one that the keeper saved from Matty just before half-time but it would be completely unfair to single that out as, in my opinion, I thought Matty Pattison was one of the best players on the pitch.
“We missed chances elsewhere and on the flip side of the coin I thought the 15 minutes after half-time ultimately cost us.”