Marcus Law was left “frustrated” after Kettering Town’s hopes of reaching the first round proper of the Emirates FA Cup were ended.
The Poppies slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Vanarama National League side Aldershot Town but not before they had given their higher-ranked hosts a real run for their money.
Scott Rendell gave the Shots a first-half advantage but Kettering performed well after the break and a number of chances went begging while they also had big claims for a penalty waved away after Rhys Hoenes went down under a challenge from home goalkeeper Will Mannion.
And Law felt his team did enough to earn a replay but their hopes were finally ended by a fine strike from Adam McDonnell five minutes from full-time.
“I thought we warranted a draw for our performance but decisions by players and officials meant things didn’t go our way,” Law said.
“At 1-0, we really should have got an equaliser but they have then scored a goal that was worthy of winning any game and that took the wind out of our sails for the last five minutes or so.
“It’s very frustrating in the end because we want to win football matches and we want to stay in every competition for as long as possible.
“Our fans had a good day out and they were excellent all afternoon and our board were brilliant in helping us with our preparations for the game as well. I think they all had a good day but we, as a team, are frustrated.
“The plan was to try to make sure we stayed in the game in the first half and chances were at a premium.
“And for a good 25-minute spell in the second half we really had a grip on the game.
“We have had two one-on-ones and not scored them, there is photographic evidence of their goalkeeping grabbing Rhys Hoenes for what we felt was a penalty and I think they should have had a man sent-off for a challenge on Andrea Borg.
“I don’t think decisions went our way but we also didn’t take our opportunities and then their lad has scored a worldie to finish the game off.
“We are just a bit frustrated because we felt we matched them for the most part.”
Despite the defeat, there was a huge boost for the Poppies as striker Aaron O’Connor made his return from injury.
The frontman, who suffered a serious knee injury during the final pre-season friendly of the summer, came off the bench for the final 25 minutes and went close to bringing Kettering level.
And Law believes the return of O’Connor, who hit 40 goals in all competitions last season, won’t be well received by the Poppies’ league rivals.
“We kept it under the radar but we are obviously really pleased to get him back,” the Kettering manager added.
“You could see the change in dynamics in having him back in there and if he was fully fit, I think he would have scored the big chance that came his way.
“We will get him ready over the next month but it’s like having a new signing.
“And I would think him being back will not be the news that some of our rivals wanted to hear because he definitely improves us.”