All good things come to an end as Daventry Town knock Hartley Wintney out in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round
Proud Ben Dillon saluted his Hartley Wintney heroes after the club’s best-ever FA Cup run was eventually ended by a slick Daventry Town on Saturday.
A bumper crowd of 1,040 squeezed into the modest Memorial Ground to witness the Combined Counties side make history by reaching the fourth qualifying round for the first time in their 116-year history.
But dreams of going one step further and potentially landing a Football League club in the first round proper were soon laid to rest by the Southern Central leaders, who turned on the style with a six-goal show to earn a lucrative away tie at League Two Chesterfield.
“It was just one game too much for us in the end,” accepted player-boss Dillon after the whistle. “But I’m really proud of the lads.
“It’s gutting to go out but looking at the bigger picture we’ve done superbly just to get to this stage.
“Daventry are a superb side, you can see why they are doing so well in a league above us and that extra class told in the end. We battled hard but they finished their chances and we didn’t.”
Villagers and fans from all over the area gathered to celebrate the club’s big day and were in dreamland after just 12 minutes when midfielder Max Elward put Hartley in front with a stunning 35-yard effort, which swerved and dipped beyond keeper Richard Morris and in off the crossbar.
But, sadly, that was all Hartley had to cheer as three goals in six explosive first-half minutes effectively ended the tie.
Within eight minutes of Elward’s strike, the Purple Army were level when Ryan Howell latched onto a loose ball and curled an 18-yard effort into the top corner.
Top scorer Ashley Robinson then nodded home a Ross Oulton corner for his 14th goal of the season and two minutes later it was 3-1 – captain Liam Dolman sending Row keeper Craig Atkinson the wrong way from the penalty spot after Robinson had been bundled over in the box by Ashley Lloyd.
Ruthless Daventry then went for the kill after the break with Tom Lorraine making it 4-1 on 62 minutes with a left-foot effort which crept in off the far post.
By now Hartley were running on empty and Daventry took full advantage. Adam Confue caught Atkinson off his line with a sublime lob for number five before sub Neil King wrapped it up in the final minute with an innocuous free kick which sailed into the net.
With that came the end of the cup fairytale for the brave Hartley lads, but this was a day that no-one at the club will ever forget.
Chairman Luke Mullen said: "Obviously it's difficult to get over the disappointment of losing but we are extremely proud of Ben and the boys for getting the club this far and putting Hartley Wintney on the map.
"It was fantastic to see everyone in the village engage with the FA Cup and great to see such a big crowd come down and support us.
"It's given the club a profile it's never had previously and it's been an extremely enjoying run.
"Now, however, it's about re-focusing on the league and pushing forward."
HARTLEY WINTNEY: Atkinson; Minton, Reynolds, Urquhary, Lloyd; Elward, Jones, Hobden (Dillon 56), Stephens, Hollamby, Argent. Subs: Hutt, Kingston, Saunders. Ref: Mark Pottage. Att: 1,040.