Bob Paine has challenged East Preston to deliver their targeted top-eight SCFL Premier Division finish come the end of the season.
The club’s fine run in the Sussex Senior Cup was ended at the quarter-final stage on Tuesday as they went down 3-1 at division-higher Bostik League South East outfit Haywards Heath Town.
East Preston were hoping to spring another surprise and secure a spot in the last four.
Paine’s troops beat SCFL Premier Division table -toppers Chichester City in the previous round but a trip to Haywards Heath proved a step too far.
But the EP boss does believe a run in the competition can give his team an added boost as the focus now returns to the league campaign.
He said: “We’ve always looked to the top eight.
“It’s tough to break into the top six but top eight is a realistic target.
“We should be aiming to push ourselves towards that and that is what we planned for at the start of the season.
“It was a fantastic run for us. It was a run where we beat some big teams in our division.
“I’m really proud of the group for getting as far as they did.”
Former Littlehampton Town and Shoreham forward Alex Laing got the division-higher team off to a fine start, firing the hosts ahead inside ten minutes.
But East Preston were not overawed by the occasion, levelling after a super move through Asa Nicholson on the half-hour. The visitors had chances to take a surprise lead before goalkeeper George Bentley saved a penalty after a harsh handball was given against Matt Searle soon after the restart.
However, East Preston could do nothing to stop Haywards Heath regaining the lead on the hour.
Defender Josh Spinks struck then Kane Louis wrapped things up six minutes later. Paine took great pride in the way East Preston tested Heath on the night.
He added: “We did a lot of good things against Haywards Heath and we defended quite well.
“We set out not to concede early, which is what we did, but I thought we got into the game.
“We managed to get a good goal with probably the best move of the match, to be honest.
“We got to half-time at 1-1 and had a really good chance of progressing.
“I think they would say we made it difficult for them and gave them a tough game.”
East Preston host seventh-placed Lingfield on Saturday before a trip to struggling Little Common on Tuesday.
And Paine is hoping for a quick response.
“This league is very competitive and you cannot go into any game thinking it is a given,” Paine said.
“You’ve got to be on top of your game all the time. If you do that we’ll be on our way to where we want to finish and where we want to be.”
EAST PRESTON: Bentley; DaCosta, Etherington, Searle, Jenkins; Pattenden, Slaughter, Barnes, Brodie, Huet; Nicholson. Subs: Heryet (Nicholson, 78), Matthews (Pattenden, 80), Gilbey (Barnes, 82), Crook, Pidgeon.
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