Penalty decision frustrates Curle but boss hails 'excellent' FA Cup run for Cobblers
Mixed emotions for Curle after cup run ends
A cup run that started in the small but scenic surroundings of Hardenhuish Park, Chippenham, ended at one of the country's most ionic football stadiums for the Cobblers on Tuesday.
It's been a memorable - and long overdue - cup adventure for the club, who were involved in the fifth round draw for the first time in 50 years and also played their first FA Cup tie in February since the same year.
In doing so, they comfortably avoided upsets against non-league clubs Chippenham and Notts County before romping past League One Burton Albion in round three with 1,500 supporters urging them on at the Pirelli Stadium.
Town then held Derby County to a goalless draw in front of the BT Sport cameras and a packed-out PTS Stadium, and even when their run finally ended on Tuesday, they still had plenty to be proud of with 4,500 away supporters in the Pride Park stands.
There's also the financial bonus that comes with on-pitch success with Cobblers banking nearly £700,000 in prize money and broadcast fees.
"I think it's been an excellent competition for us," said manager Keith Curle. "The players have mentally accepted every challenge we've had and that's been credit to the changing room.
"We went away to Chippenham and if you look at the surroundings we turned up there, it's led us to Derby County and Pride Park and playing against one of the iconic players of the last decade.
"It's been excellent for us and that's the beauty of the FA Cup because from your starting point, you don't know where it takes you.
"The players have enjoyed the journey and we as a football club and as staff have enjoyed ourselves and we've given a good account of ourselves in every game that we've played."
Curle accepted that Cobblers were deservedly beaten by Derby on Tuesday, though he was still a little aggrieved by the decision to penalise Scott Wharton's foul in the box, which allowed Wayne Rooney to score from the spot and kill off the tie.
"I've looked back at it and I don't think it's a definite penalty but the referee's given it and we abide by it," he added.
"It wasn't the defining moment in the game but I thought it was slightly harsh and I will go back and look at it again.
"Overall though, we came here, we competed and we kept going for 94, 95 minutes and my players will do that because that's the demands I put them.
"We need to score goals and we need to win games but effort and commitment, that always has to be there when you put the shirt on."