ASHINGTON CFC manager Gary Middleton said he had never felt at such a low ebb in the whole of his non league career than he did following his side’s painful exit from their FA Carlsberg Vase fourth round on Saturday.
The Woodhorn Lane boss said it was unforgivable that his players turned in an inept second half showing after they had completely bossed the first period against Northamptonshire side Long Buckby.
And he also apologised to the Colliers travelling band of supporters, whom he described as “fantastic”.
Middleton said: “I haven’t talked to anybody since the game and this defeat will take some getting over.
“I’m bitterly disappointed at both the result and the performance from the players in the second 45 minutes.
“I can quite honestly say that I’ve never felt at such a low ebb in 22 years of non league football as I do now.
“I had never been as low after we lost in a penalty shoot-out against South Shields in the final of the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup last season, but this is worse.”
Two goals from Stephen Young had given the Colliers a commanding interval lead on Saturday.
But the home side took advantage of a poor second half showing from the visitors and scored three times to take their place in the last 16.
Middleton added: “It could have been a big reward, but at the end of the day the players only played for 45 minutes – and that is unforgivable because to win a contest you’ve got to play for 90 minutes.
“The players haven’t stood up to be counted.
“We had Long Buckby on the ropes in the first half but didn’t finish them off and go for the knockout.
“We knew what we had to continue to do and we simply didn’t perform.
“Why? I cannot put my finger on it, and if I could, then I wouldn’t be manager of Ashington CFC – I would be at a higher level.
“I need to apologise to the supporters because they have been let down.
“They have been fantastic in backing us in our two FA runs this season (Cup and Vase) and were fantastic again on Saturday and deserved more – and I fully understand that the club have gone further in the Vase competition than ever before, but that is no consolation.”
Reflecting on the first half of Saturday’s game, Middleton said: “There was an edgy start but I thought we began the better of the two teams.
“Then we got our way into the game with possession, especially in the final third and with set pieces, and it was only a matter of time before we scored.
“After the two goals we opened them up on numerous occasions without putting the ball into the net, which was a concern, but Long Buckby were never in the game and hadn’t threatened.
“I was confident that we would continue to create chances but when we did they went begging and I lost count.
“But this has been our problem all season – not killing teams off.
“We have won games by the odd goal when it should have been dead and buried.
“Buckby had one opportunity to be fair at the
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end of the half and the lad should have scored and it ought to have been a wake up call for us.
“We spoke at the interval that by no means was the contest over and to continue with the work ethic and to get the wide players involved and to have another 45 minutes of the same.
“But after Greg Ling has had an impact for them as they got a penalty to make it 2-1, it was backs to the wall for us for 20 minutes.
“We couldn’t get ourselves going and stopped working hard for each other as a team.”
Ashington also played out the last quarter of an hour of normal time with ten men after Jonny Godsmark was sent off.
The Colliers boss added: “I was a long way off the incident but I’ve got no qualms.”