Hayes & Yeading boss Paul Hughes was left to ponder what might have been as he watched his side let a two-goal lead slip deep into extra-time – then lose on penalties – in the FA Cup first round against Carlisle.
Jon Mellish netted a brace at the death for the Sky Bet League Two outfit to make it 10 goals in 10 games in all competitions to take the tie to penalties.
The Southern League Premier Division South side had gone 2-0 up courtesy of excellent goals from Omar Rowe and Amos Nasha.
“You know it’s never over, but when you go two ahead and there’s only a few minutes to play, you do think it might be there,” he said.
“I’m gutted for the boys. They worked so hard and to lose a game like that, it’s devastating. Credit to Carlisle because they pushed, but this does feel really hard to take.
“Obviously we can feel proud, but we were so close. I was so pleased for Omar Rowe and Amos Nasha, because they were two great goals.
“It’s really tough because we don’t have a game for a month now, and that means we have a long time to think about it.”
Midfielder Jack Williams was first to miss from the penalty spot, but Lewis Alessandra did the same as he found the woodwork.
Misses were exchanged, but Gavin Reilly atoned for his earlier miss to bag the decisive penalty which brought an end to a remarkable day and progression for the League Two side by the skin of their teeth.
For Carlisle boss Chris Beech it was relief rather than satisfaction.
“What can you say other than ‘this is the FA Cup’,” he commented. “We had chances in the 90 minutes but we were sloppy.
“When they got their goals you do fear the worst, but this is what our lads are about. They never give up.
“Jon Mellish just keeps scoring and it then comes down to who handles the penalties better.
“Well done Marcus (Dewhurst) for the save and Gav Reilly for backing that up with a clean strike to send us through.
“We’re in round two, and that matters and we’ve shown again that you don’t win a race until you’re over the finishing line.
“We’ve got the reward for keeping going – and credit to both teams for making it an excellent game to watch.”