Bob Paine was proud of his East Preston Football Club side despite their FA Cup run coming to an end on Saturday.
EP fell to a 4-1 home loss at the hands of three-leagues higher Ryman League Premier Division outfit Merstham in their first-round qualifying clash at The Lashmar.
Paine’s side were just a goal down at the interval but in the end Merstham’s quality told as they ran out comfortable winners.
Having progressed through two rounds in this year’s competition, Paine reserved special praise for his young side.
He said: “I’m very proud of my young players who gave it everything.
“We came up against a very competent Merstham team and in the end were beaten by the better side, there is no disgrace in that.
“I could not have asked for anymore from the boys, we came under a lot of pressure and had to work very hard to stay in the game as long as we did.
“If at the beginning of the season, someone had said we would be unbeaten in the league after four games and beaten two-higher league opponents in the FA Cup, I probably would not have believed them.
“Great credit must go to the squad for what they have done so far this season. We must now kick on and not let our league form suffer, if anything we must be more determined.
“It’s very simple the priority is promotion, nothing else matters.”
To a man, EP worked hard throughout the game but all of their efforts were undone a minute before the break.
Merstham’s pace, passing and movement eventually told and they took the lead through Dan Hector.
Paine’s side were once again under intense pressure in the second half, with EP fighting hard to get back into the clash.
However, any hopes of yet another FA Cup upset were dashed in two minutes.
First, Callum Wilcox doubled his side’s lead with a thunderbolt on 55 minutes, before Alex Addai was on hand to fire home from close range two minutes later.
East Preston continued to work hard as they tried to get back into the contest.
Jared Rance’s whipped free-kick was headed home by Lukas Franzen-Jones to give the home side some hope with 17 minutes left to play.
EP continued to push but a second wasn’t forthcoming and Merstham added a fourth one minute from time.
Matt Smith felled Hector in the area with a spot-kick awarded. Dan Bennett slammed the resultant penalty home to send East Preston crashing out of this year’s competition.
East Preston’s early season SCFL Division 1 form has seen them handed the team of the month gong. In four league matches so far, they’ve won three and drawn one, scoring 12 goals and conceding twice.
EAST PRESTON: Cook; Josh Parazo, Jacob Parazo, Witten, Lyne, M.Smith, Rance, Hardman, Huet, Barnes, Taylor. Subs: Franzen-Jones (Witten), Mottershead (Hardman), H.Smith (Taylor)., Beaney, Etherington, Hallett, Punter.
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