WHEN the team coach pulled up at St Austell’s ground in Cornwall on Saturday, Huntingdonshire’s manager Neil King gave a sigh. “That was my reaction, so you can imagine what the players thought,” he said.

Trying hard not to sound like he was blaming the conditions at the ground and the state of the pitch for his team's 2-0 defeat in their County FA Youth Cup second round tie, King did stress: "If we had played the match at St Neots it would have felt like Wembley compared to that ground. I would have given us a really good chance on a good pitch."

The Hunts under-18s team beat Suffolk in the first round to set up this long away trip. And hopes were high as the players headed down the motorway to Plymouth, where they stayed overnight on Friday. But when they got to the ground on Saturday morning their hearts sank and King admitted a few of the players simply failed to perform after that.

"It was like going back to my day," said the manager - the pitch was bumpy and the grass was long and we like to play football; you couldn't do that on there. It's not sour grapes, we just couldn't play our game and they were able to kick it long and run on to it. It was very deflating."

Hunts weren't good in the first half and went 1-0 down on 15 minutes when Jack Lawrence found the net, though King thought that goal might have been offside. Then, two minutes later, St Neots goalkeeper Luke Shipp went to gather a simple Lawrence shot: the ball found a divot, flew up, hit the goalkeeper in the nose, and went in.

And it went from bad to worse when influential captain James Nespoli was forced from the field with an injury.

"In the second half we were much better and we had few opportunities and we got lots of excellent crosses in - there just wasn't anyone on the end of them," said King.

"It's a shame but the conditions affected some of the better players but they just didn't perform.

"The ground wasn't even really up to FA Vase standard. But it was a good experience and one we all enjoyed."