Alton assistant manager Leigh Keddle was proud of his side’s performance after the Brewers exited the Hampshire Senior Cup on penalties at AFC Portchester on Saturday in the quarter-finals.
Alton had a number of players unavailable for the tie, but acquitted themselves well against the Wessex League Premier Division high-fliers.
The Brewers deservedly took the lead in the 50th minute when Alex Merrifield headed home from a corner.
Portchester were reduced to ten men on 62 minutes when Josh Benfield received a second yellow card, but Charlie Williamson’s 78th-minute equaliser made it 1-1 and took the tie to penalties.
Portchester then held their nerve to win the penalty shoot-out 4-3.
“We’re disappointed to go out on penalties but it’s always a lottery,” said Keddle.
“We’ll take all the positives. We had a much-changed squad, but all the guys that came in showed they can play at this level against a team that are pushing for promotion out of the Wessex League.
“They acquitted themselves really well. We had some chances, particularly in the second half, that we didn’t quite take, and they made some changes off the bench that freshened them up and they got the goal at the end.
“Since October we’ve only lost one game – that was the Farnham away game.
“For us it’s not a loss. We’ve gone to the lottery of penalties, but we’ve kept a really good Portchester side probably second best for most of the game.”
Alton had been the better side in the first half, and Keddle said he asked for more of the same after the break.
“At half-time the message was more of the same,” he said. “We knew we had nullified a lot of their threats.
“We talked about them playing quite direct and the importance of the second balls.
“So at half-time it was a pretty straightforward conversation – it was we’ve got to do this for another 45 minutes.
“We needed to make sure we didn’t step off the game at all. When we came out at the start of the second half we were on the front foot.
“We tried to take advantage of some of the spaces we had wide and in behind, and I thought we did that well.”
Keddle was particularly pleased to see the Brewers score from a set piece.
“We’ve looked really dangerous at set pieces this year,” said Keddle.
“It was another good ball in the box from Perry Coles and a great header from Alex. I thought we deserved to go 1-0 up, and we looked a threat all day from set pieces.
“When you play games like this there’s small margins.”
Benfield’s sending off seemed to galvanise Portchester, and Keddle admitted it took his side a bit of time to adjust accordingly.
“It took us a few minutes to adapt to what they were doing,” he said.
“At the time of the sending off they then changed formation a bit, and I think the changes they made at the same time brought that bit of freshness.
“When they got the goal they were then happy to run the game out to penalties and then they just dropped off a little bit and the game kind of evened itself out.
“With penalties if you hit the target it’s got a chance to go in.
“Credit to their goalie – he guessed the right way on a couple of them and he saved them and that was ultimately the difference.”
Alton entertain Sheerwater in the Combined Counties Premier Division South on Saturday afternoon (3pm), before travelling to Fleet Town in the league next Tuesday night (February 13).