NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: March Town are defeated but far from disgraces as FA Cup adventure ends

March Town boss Brett Whaley (left) with coach Arran Duke. Picture: STEVE SNELL

March Town boss Brett Whaley (left) with coach Arran Duke. Picture: STEVE SNELL - Credit: Archant

Boss Brett Whaley spoke of his pride after March Town’s adventure in the FA Cup came to an end.

The Hares were beaten 3-1 by Step 4 side Grays Athletic in a first qualifying round tie last Saturday where all of the goals arrived in the first half.

Whaley's men hit the front through Jamie Short, who headed in a Dylan Kilford corner, but they were then undone by a powerful response from the hosts.

However, March performed with huge credit in the second half when leading scorer Jack Friend saw a couple of penalty appeals turned down.

"I'm really proud of the players," stressed Whaley after seeing his side defeated but far from disgraced.

"We started the game really brightly, played with no fear and got ourselves ahead, but that was probably the worst thing that happened as it gave Grays a kick up the backside.

"Their quality showed as they three goals in 20 minutes before half-time, but we responded well.

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"We asked a lot of questions of them in the second half, had a couple of penalty appeals turned and gave it a really good go.

"Had we got one of those spot-kicks it might have made things interesting and put the pressure back onto Grays, but sadly it didn't happen for us.

"The two-division gap was just a step too far for us in the end, but our lads really did themselves justice."

March were dealt a blow when defender Gav Cooke was forced off with an ankle problem in the second half against Grays.

The club's vice-captain now joins skipper Max Mattless on the casualty list with both men likely to miss up to a month.

The Hares turn their attention to another national competition this Saturday when hosting Walsham-le-Willows in the second qualifying round of the FA Vase, 3pm.

And with Whaley's side having already beaten two Step 5 sides in the FA Cup, they will have high hopes of adding the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division visitors to their impressive collection of scalps.

Whaley added: "I don't expect there to be too much between the sides. Walsham-le-Willows clearly haven't had the best start in the Premier Division whereas we hope to be challenging at the top end of our league.

"We've had good results in the FA Cup against higher-level sides and I feel we have a really good chance of another one providing we perform at the levels we have done for most of this season."