MARK Owen remained upbeat after Droitwich Spa’s FA Vase run came to an end in a last-gasp defeat at Lye Town.
James Lemon’s equaliser ten minutes from time cancelled out Emils Fedotovs’ early strike, only for Sam Tye to break Droitwich hearts in the fourth minute of stoppage time just as the game seemed destined for extra time.
Owen, who masterminded three successive victories against higher-tier opposition as the Saltmen reached the second round for the first time, only had positive thoughts when reflecting on last Saturday’s loss.
“As I’ve said before, if we’d have been told before the season started that we’d have beaten the teams that we have, we’d have bitten your hand off,” he said.
“In terms of Saturday, Lye did deserve it. It was a sickener to get back into the game and then lose so late – it was a real blow to concede so late when we looked like taking it to extra time.
“I’m so proud of the players, the board, but also the supporters. We had close to 120 fans there and we had the whole town of Droitwich backing us with the hats, scarves and messages of support.”
After the pitch passed a late inspection, the two sides battled it out on a boggy playing surface which played a role in the opening goal when Alex Dugmore’s slip allowed Fedotovs to strike the ball home after just four minutes.
Droitwich were unable to reach their usual levels and struggled to create chances, with the only first-half incidents of note being Connor Collins’ strike that required a save by Charlie Price and a penalty appeal by Lemon that was waved away.
The worsening conditions unsurprisingly did not lend to an increase in the quality of play, so Lemon’s leveller came as a pleasant surprise. He latched onto a through pass and was alert to finish after seeing his initial effort beaten away by Price.
The Midland Football League Premier Division Flyers stepped up the pressure and had lift-off when Tye’s surging run ended with a low finish past keeper Matt Oliver.
“It was tough, we couldn’t get our wingers into the game on the heavy pitch,” said Owen.
“The lads were gutted after the game. They felt they hadn’t reached their usual standards and were capable of more as they had shown in the previous rounds.
“I said to them after the game not to be disappointed, there has been no shortage of positives to take from the Vase this year.
“The board spoke to them in the clubhouse afterwards and told them how much of an achievement it was.
“I appreciate the lads’ efforts but we were also been amazed by the Droitwich supporters who travelled up to the game.”
The Saltmen now turn their attentions to the West Midlands League Division One League Cup on Saturday (3pm), with a trip to Tipton Town.
Owen admits he doesn’t believe the Saltmen’s 3-1 win against Tipton on October 19 will have a bearing on this weekend’s clash.
“It’s just another game,” he added. “We aim to bounce back and to put the Vase to bed.
“Our main focus now turns to the league. We’ve only played six games so far so our aim is to get as many points on the board before Christmas, to give the lads some minutes and to use the full squad available to us.”