A DOUBLE from Ryan Bush wasn’t enough to stop Buckland Athletic dropping out of the Les Phillips Cup last night.
Paul Froude’s side were never ahead against Saltash United at Homers Heath in an end-to-end first round tie which finished 4-2 to the visitors.
The home side were responsible for fashioning the first chance of the game when Cieran Bridger forced Ashes keeper Oliver Sidey to palm away his drive from the edge of the box.
But the Cornishmen would hit the front for the first time with 25 minutes played when Sam Hughes squared for Rubin Wilson to slot home.
Just before the half-hour, referee Andrew Heapy was faced with his first big decision of the night. Alfie Wotton may consider himself lucky to have received only a yellow card for his wild lunge on Tor Swann.
Buckland skipper Rob Farkins signalled his side’s intent with the last effort of the first half when his far post header was held at point blank range by Sidey.
And 10 minutes after the break they were back on level terms through Bush – who opened his body up to bend a lovely finish into the top corner from just inside the 18-yard box.
Parity was short-lived, however, as four minutes later Ashes skipper Dave Barker was given the time and space to head past Andy Collings from a corner.
With 25 minutes to go, Wilson gave his side breathing space when he cooly slotted home his second goal of the evening.
But back came Buckland, with Bush at the forefront once again. Farkins headed a deep free-kick across the face of goal where the striker gleefully stroked the ball home.
Any hopes of a grandstand finish were dashed seven minutes from time, though – when the ball fell to Hughes on the edge of the area and he powered across Collings into the far corner.
The Bucks still have interest in one cup competition, with a Devon St Luke’s Challenge Cup semi-final to come next month.
But manager Froude was still disappointed to bow out of the league cup, and hopeful that his side’s season won’t fizzle out.
‘I think we half expected it off the back of the Newport Pagnell game in the Vase,’ said Froude. ‘It’s just disappointing because we worked hard to get back in the game at 1-1 and you think maybe we can take it on from there. But then we gifted them a second goal.
‘It’s just the way the last couple of months have gone. There were some harsh words said in the changing rooms because it meant a lot to us to continue on in this competition.
‘We need to re-evaluate and have a good look at things. We have got half an eye towards next season now, but obviously we don’t want this season to fizzle out.
‘We still have a county cup semi-final and 11 league games to go, but after a really good start there may be some questions asked about the players we want to move forward with. The last two or three months haven’t been good enough.’
The game was the first that Buckland have played since their FA Vase exit at Newport Pagnell – a situation which Froude believes wasn’t ideal.
‘I’d sooner have played the two postponed games in between because we knew this was going to happen,’ Froude admitted. ‘I’m expecting a reaction at Wellington on Saturday, but we’ve dwelled on it for a bit too long. We could’ve done with getting it out of our system this time last week.
‘We weren’t able to do that, so we probably felt a little bit leggy – which was a mental thing as much as a physical one.
‘I think we’ve had a lot of highs this season as well as a lot of lows. It’s been a strange campaign in that respect, but at some point the young lads have to accept that they’ve played 20 games now.
‘The lads who have come up to this level know enough about what’s needed. At Newport Pagnell we were zoned in from the minute we got there, and we have to be like that in every single game we play otherwise things like this happen.’
Buckland, now 13th in the Western League standings, travel to 14th-placed Wellington this Saturday (3pm).
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