A visibly dispirited Jim Gannon said his players were left “stunned” after Northampton’s dramatic fightback ended Northwich Victoria’s 10-match FA Cup journey in a breathless second round tie at Sixfields on Saturday.
The Evo-Stik Division One North side produced an outstanding performance which belied their place in tier eight of the football pyramid and they were set for a famous victory when goals from Jimmy Ball and Richard Bennett had them deservedly leading 2-0 with just eight minutes to go.
But in a blink of an eye Northampton turned a humiliating exit into a place in Monday’s third round draw as Sam Hoskins (83), Jason Taylor (85) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (87) all struck inside four minutes.
“It’s very difficult to take,” confessed Vics boss Gannon afterwards. “I guess we played above ourselves for most of the game and I think fatigue played a part at the end.
“Those things like fitness are the difference between a professional, full-time club and a non-league side but we’re disappointed for the lads because I think they deserved something out of the game.
“Obviously the players are naturally disappointed and probably stunned in some regards because it all happened so quickly.
“But when everything settles down I think they’ll realise that they gave Northampton a right game and they should be proud of themselves.”
Gannon is right to be proud of his players after they gave the Cobblers an almighty scare with Brian Summerskill and Richard Bennett catching the eye in a terrific team performance and perhaps if not for Hoskins’ somewhat fortunate goal seven minutes from time, the Vics may have held on for one of the biggest FA Cup upsets in recent times.
“It’ll take a while for today to settle in the system but anybody who watched the game today will have seen we have a decent team,” added Gannon.
“The biggest problem I’ll have now is holding onto our players because when you look at that match there’s players in our team who should be playing professional football.
“They’ve had all week to prepare whereas we’ve had 31 games, we had a midweek game and then an hour and a half in the rain to prepare, so in that regard it’s amazing what the players have achieved.
“They will not go away thinking that what they’ve done is amazing but even to be where we were with 10 minutes to go is a fantastic achievement.
“I think there were a lot of factors that made the difference in the end. We had a few players who were tiring badly and they changed shape and introduced a few subs.”
But despite the gut-wrenching manner of his side’s exit, Gannon was magnanimous in defeat, adding: “I wish Northampton well. They had a great win at Coventry so good luck to them in the next round.
“You only have to go on their website to see the quality of players they have. They’re a full-time side so it was always a tough ask against a team 92 places above us.”