NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Disappointment and pride following a gallant Godmanchester Rovers effort in the FA Cup

Jack Chandler gave Godmanchester Rovers the lead in their FA Cup exit at Hitchin. Picture: DUNCAN LA

Jack Chandler gave Godmanchester Rovers the lead in their FA Cup exit at Hitchin. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT - Credit: Archant

Godmanchester Rovers manager Ollie Drake was determined to pull out the positives from a crushing FA Cup disappointment.

The local Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side were beaten 3-1 at higher-level Hitchin Town after coming within minutes of a shock first qualifying round success.

Jack Chandler headed Rovers into an 11th minute lead after being picked out by a long Chris Hyem throw and they held their advantage until the closing stages when a famous triumph and £6,000 in prize money were cruelly snatched away.

Hitchin, who play two levels above Rovers, equalised in the 86th minute in controversial style as a hotly-disputed corner appeared to be handled by home player Scott Belgrove before he levelled.

And the hosts then hit the front in the 88th minute courtesy of an unfortunate own goal as the ball was deflected onto a post by Rovers defender Arran Mackay before hitting goalkeeper Niall Conroy and going in.

Hitchin then rubbed salt into some painful Rovers wounds with a 90th minute clincher.

“I have never been more proud of my team,” said Drake. “But I’ve not been that gutted at the end of a match for a long time either.

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“We outplayed a Step 3 team on their own ground for two thirds of an FA Cup tie and we feel we should have won the game, but things went against us in the final few minutes.

“The officials made a monstrosity of a mess up for the equaliser. The decision to give a corner is beyond me and to make matters worse the Hitchin lad handled the ball before he scored.

“The second goal could not have been any more unlucky as the ball came back off the post, hit my goalkeeper in the back of the head and trickled over the line.

“We had to throw everyone and everything at it to try to get a replay at that point, but Hitchin got a third.

“All we can do now is dust ourselves down and take confidence from our performance back into the league.

“Niall and the back four handled virtually everything that was thrown at them, our midfield three ran most of the game and our attacking players were excellent.”

Rovers host table-toppers Stowmarket in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division this Saturday, 3pm.