Holwell Sports manager Simon Daws told his crestfallen players to hold their heads high after their brilliant FA Cup run finally came to an end.
One of Welby Road’s biggest crowds in recent seasons saw Holwell battle back from 2-0 down on Saturday to force a replay against Bedworth United, a side which plies its trade two levels higher.
Back in Warwickshire for Tuesday evening’s replay, Daws saw his side take Bedworth into extra time after an even first 90 minutes before bowing out 2-0.
Holwell had already knocked out one higher league side as they equalled the club’s best run in the world-famous cup competition.
Daws said: “It was a good effort all round in both games, but tired legs cost us in the end.
“The first goal was always going to win it and once they got it you could see the game was up.
“Playing on a 3G pitch was an advantage for them and it was difficult for us to adapt.
“We pushed them all the way and had our chances, but unfortunately they didn’t go in.”
A Graham Wells double epitomised Holwell’s character and courage this season and earned a 2-2 draw in the original tie.
It could have even better for the hosts with Julian Joachim hitting the post late on with an intuitive long-range effort.
But it was the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier side who progressed to a second qualifying round tie at National League North side Hednesford Town.
“We matched them all over and you couldn’t really tell who was the higher league side,” Daws added.
“I think they were impressed with us and we certainly made them work.
“I said to them last night that I was proud of what they had done and told them their heads should be higher.
“If we can take that form into the league who knows what we can do?”
Holwell’s cup run has seen them drop to ninth in the East Midlands Counties League with games in hand, but they face the toughest return imaginable to their league campaign.
Saturday’s match at second-placed Radford is followed by a trip to leaders Ashby Ivanhoe three days later with both sides yet to lose in the league.
Holwell, who are unbeaten in the league since the opening day defeat at Kimberley, then host fourth-placed South Normanton the following Saturday.
And first-choice strike pair Joachim and Wells are both doubts.
Daws said: “I just hope the cup hasn’t taken too much out of us for Saturday.
“I think mentally we can recover, but the physical aspect bothers me.
“There are a lot of niggles and knocks as well as fatigue, and we have got three of the top four to play in seven days.”