Gainsborough Trinity manager Steve Housham bemoaned his side’s poor performance as the Blues fell to an uninspiring 2-0 defeat to Leamington FC in the FA Trophy.
After reaching the semi-final of the competition last season, the Blues fell at the first hurdle of this year’s run after goals from Lee Chilton and Stefan Moore, and the result could have been worse were it not for a succession of saves from Phil Barnes.
“There weren’t too many positives to take from the game. It could have been four, five or six goals had he not been in form, and we’ve got a long slog ahead to stay in the league,” said Housham.
“I thought we played well until they scored but after that we didn’t threaten them as we needed to.”
“I’m disappointed that we’ve performed the way we have, but I’ll keep fighting. This is a competition we had a big high in last year and I’m down that we’ve been knocked out – it’s not a nice feeling.”
Both sides went close in the first five minutes - Ricky Johnson blasted just wide for the hosts, while Trinity’s Dan Clayton should have made more of Darryn Stamp’s knockdown, firing over from six yards out.
After that opening burst, the home side looked to build the pressure on the Blues, with Barnes was forced into action from a Johnson header and Josh Lacey having to put his head in where it hurts to block Chilton’s close range volley.
The breakthrough eventually came with 32 minutes on the clock, when indecision between Dominic Roma and Lacey allowed Chilton to control and pick his spot past Barnes to give the Brakes a deserved lead, although there was more than a hint of offside about the positioning of Johnson coming back..
It could have been worse for Trinity were it not for Barnes and Roma, who combined to produce a brilliant save and block on the line to deny Johnson moments before the break.
With Josh Wilde limping after an earlier knock, Liam Davis was introduced to the fray at half time, but it was the home side that continued to threaten, with the woodwork preventing them doubling their lead through the omnipotent Johnson on 51 minutes.
The debutant Josh Wootton was introduced ten minutes into the second half, and the switch to a more dynamic 3-4-3 formation looked to inject a bit of life into the Blues as they searched for the equaliser.
At the other end, the battle between Barnes and Johnson began to take on epic proportions, with the Trinity keeper producing another superb save to deny the big centre forward, who threatened all day with his strength and presence.
The veteran stopper was solely responsible for keeping his side in the game as the half progressed, consistently foiling his nemesis Johnson and producing an athletic low save from Chilton’s 68th minute volley.
Only one team looked like scoring as the half progressed, and they made the result safe with thirteen minutes left.
Matt Dodd cut in from the right wing and Moore was on hand after Johnson’s shot was blocked to roll the ball into the bottom corner.
Just 10 months after the highs of reaching the semi-final in this very competition, Trinity now face a second half of the season without a money-spinning cup run, with all attentions now focussed on the fight for Skill North survival.
Trinity: Barnes, Lacey, Wilde (Davis, 45), Roma, Young, Clayton (Batty,81), Williams (Wootton, 55), Toner, Russell, Barraclough, Stamp
Subs Not Used: Martin, Emery.
Leamington: Breeden, Mace, Morley, Magunda, Daly, Green, Dodd (Heath, 86), Hawker, S.Moore, Johnson (L.Moore, 78), Chilton
Subs Not Used: Owen, Bottomer, Fenney
Goals: Chilton 32, Moore 77.
Yellow: Wilde 8, Clayton 38.
Referee: Mr J Brooks.