by James Grayson (www.nonleagueyorkshire.com)
Chris Hilton conceded that poor defending was Stocksbridge Park Steels was undoing in the 3-2 defeat to Irlam in the FA Cup Preliminary Round tie at Bracken Moor.
Two goals in the opening six minutes put Stocksbridge on the back-foot and although they turned it around with a spirited fight-back to level at 2-2. Irlam went and scored a third.
“(Mountain to climb, great recovery and then a sucker-punch) I think you’ve just about summed it up,” Hilton told Non League Yorkshire.
“I thought we were very poor in the first half. Irlam moved the ball well and put us under pressure, but having said that we gave them two goals. We should have done better with them.
“There were no complaints at half-time, they were the better team. We changed things around and came out for the second half and played with a better tempo. We got about them and like you say, got it back to 2-2.
“I thought ‘right 20 minutes to go, momentum is with us, we can probably go and win the game’. The goal we gave away was ridiculous at best.
“It was as flat as a pancake after that. You put all the hard work in to get it back to 2-2 and we get a sucker-punch a minute after we equalised. It took the the wind out of our sails.
“We huffed and puffed after that, but we didn’t really create anything. The first ten minutes cost them us. The defending today for all three goals was poor.
“Take nothing away from Irlam, I thought their front three were excellent and the guy in the hole did well.
“It’s the FA Cup thing again for us. We’ve never got a win in it since I’ve been here. I said to the chairman (Graham Furness) if I’m still in charge next season that I’ll give the FA Cup game a miss. That may give us a chance!”
Hilton was forced to field a fairly youthful line-up, with experienced bodies Michael Trench, Ross Goodwin, Kurtis Turner and Josh Nodder all unavailable.
It was not negative as 17-year-old debutant Brandon Whitfield came off the bench and scored, and several other young players got their chance to impress.
“They are a massive part of our team, the spine of our side,” he said.
“I knew it was coming, and I said this to you in pre-season when I spoke to you.
“I was dreading it knowing that I had four missing. It was going to be hard because you’ve got experienced players missing who are hard to replace.
“We threw the young lads in and young Brandon has come on and scored. The kid has great ability and he took his goal really well, he was really calm and collected when he slotted it away.
“He’s tenacious, he works hard and he’s not afraid to get stuck in. He’s got great potential.
“Lewis Whitham has got another goal. Josh Wain has come on in centre-midfield so has got some more experience, along with Louis Shaw.
“On a bright note, the lads from the second team have got minutes and great experience. On the other side, it shows we haven’t got strength-in-depth, but who would be if you have four senior players missing?