BROMSGROVE Sporting boss Paul Smith said he was left with a few grey hairs after he watched his side come from behind, not once, but twice to book their place in the second round of the FA Vase.
After dropping their first league points of the season at Athletic earlier in the season in a 1-1 draw, Smith’s side look destined to crash out of the Vase on Saturday to the same opponents at the Victoria Ground as they found themselves 2-0 down at half-time.
However, the Rouslers showed great character as Robbie Bunn reduced the arrears immediately after the restart before Luke Edwards levelled the tie with 20 minutes remaining only to see their hard work undone as Athletic went ahead from the penalty spot five minutes later.
Sporting dug deep and Jason Cowley’s persistence earnt him the equaliser after 80 minutes to send the tie to extra-time.
Ahmed Ali then put the hosts ahead for the first time in the 97th minute before Cowley secured the 5-3 victory seven minutes before the end of extra-time in front of a 505-strong crowd.
Speaking after the game, Smith told the Standard he was left disappointed with a ‘shocking’ first-half display after expecting his players to put on a ‘strong performance’ on the back of a poor display at Athletic earlier in the season.
He said: “It was a shocker really. I fully expected us to play really well on the back of playing so badly at Cadburys in the league but we somehow managed to throw a first half display in which was on par with how bad we were at their place.
“There were a few choice words I gave the players at half-time and I changed the shape slightly and I thought we were ten-fold better the second half.
“On the basis of our second half and extra-time display, I thought we thoroughly deserved the victory in the end.”
After finding themselves 2-0 down at the break, Smith said the whole starting 11 were only performing at five and sixes out of ten and told the players they needed to step it up a gear if they wanted to book their place in the next round.
He added: “If you’re hitting those kind of levels you don’t deserve to be winning games of football.
“I explained to the players that in the second half we have got to go out and hit eight and nines out of tens and hopefully if we don’t make any mistakes, we have a chance.
“They showed a great deal of character to get back and win it and that’s fair play to the lads because you’re never going to playing well all the time.
“The best thing about cup games is performances don’t really matter, you can play really well and lose but we’ve won the tie and that’s what we needed to do.”
On the back of an enthralling Vase victory, Sporting now travel to West Midlands (Regional) League outfit Bewdley Town tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Worcestershire FA Senior Urn quarter-finals (7.45pm KO).
And with much of the squad enduring 120 minutes of football on Saturday, Smith said he would be using the Bewdley game as a chance to rotate the squad and give players much-needed game time
He said: “I was looking to rotate the squad at Bewdley regardless of what happened in the Vase.
“Keenan Meakin-Richards needs minutes, I’m looking to bring Alfie Bloomer back into the fold, Sam Wills is desperate for some more minutes so it’s going to be a case of rotating the squad and giving minutes to players that need them.”
Meanwhile, Sporting have announced they have re-signed left back Joe Haines from Midland League Premier Division side Walsall Wood.