Exmouth Town number two speaks about the midweek cup defeat at Bridgwater Town

The Exmouth Town flag that can be seen at home and away games. Picture MARTIN COOK

The Exmouth Town flag that can be seen at home and away games. Picture MARTIN COOK - Credit: Archant

Exmouth Town assistant manager Andy Rawlings summed up the general feeling post match after the team’s exit from the Les Phillips Cup, beaten 3-1 at Bridgwater Town on Tuesday night, in a single word, writes Steve Birley.

The Town number two said: "Frustrating!"

He quickly added: "For various reasons we were unable to field what we'd call a 'first choice' team and our numbers were limited to such a degree that Kev [Town manager Kevin Hill] was named as one of just two bench change alternatives. However, and I want to be very clear about this - the lads who pulled the Town shirts on at Fairfax Park last night could not have given any more. To a player they were simply outstanding and each and every one of them epitomised the feeling there is in the camp for all things ETFC."

Two early goals from the hosts had Town on the back foot - Bridgwater netted their first after just eight minutes and then doubled their advantage four minutes later.

Rawlings said: "The early goals did for us in as much as the lads knew from the off that we were 'up against it'. They [Bridgwater] are a very tidy side indeed and they are certainly of the 'street wise' variety and they could see from the off that we were light of a couple of players and they did exactly what they had no doubt hoped for, and that was get in amongst us early doors and look to take an advantage that would serve them well throughout the game and that's just how it panned out.

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"That said, once we found our feet we gave as good as we got, some might say we went on to have the better chances through to the break by which time we had got one back from Jordan [Harris] who, incidentally, gave their back line plenty to think about all night long.

"Ace [High] and Aaron [Denny] also went close and we were 'well in the game' at half-time."

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Town were dealt another blow when they were forced to withdraw James Richards just before the hour mark.

The Town number two explained saying: "James [Richards] tightened up and there was no point in aggravating his woes so we hauled him off and soon after, even though they were down a man to a sin-binning, they got a third goal that effectively ended the game as a contest."

He continued: "We never, at any stage, 'threw the towel in', but it was the case that the night reached the stage where the home side had the game in the bag and, for us, it was just a case of seeing the game out, giving our all, but accepting that, on the night, we had come up just a little short."

Over the 90 minutes, Town gave as good as they got for long periods and, as an overview, the Town assistant manager said: "It is very much a case of fine margins and, once again, and this has happened to us before this season, we got done when we were a man up on the opposition. It's hard explain, and non-football folk will think this is mad - but, it is often that much harder to play against 10 than 11 - and so it proved for us in that 10 minute spell when they had a sin-binning and we shipped a third goal.

"We were also left so frustrated by the non award of what could easily have been seen as handball offences in the area that could/would have led to penalties.

"It's very frustrating how differently handball is viewed by officials, the old chestnut of 'hand-to-ball' seems to have so many ways of being interpreted!"

So, after a run of three games without a win - the first time this has happened to Town since 2018 - is this now a 'crisis' at Town?

Assistant manager Rawlings wastes little time to respond to that question!

He says: "No, absolutely not, but what it is though; is very much a 'wake-up call'. Perhaps a reality check is needed to remember where we have come from and where we currently find ourselves.

We also need to focus on just how much there remains to achieve for us this season.

OK, we have slipped to fifth and gone out of a cup in the last three games in a sequence that has seen us not register a win, but lets remember that 12 months ago we were the level below we are at now and dreaming of stepping up to compete at this level, and competing is still something we are very much doing.

"One or two things have conspired against us of late, but we have done so much good in the past 16 months that we cannot let all that hard work go to waste.

"We need to pick ourselves up now and move on to the next game which just happens to be a huge challenge as we head for Hallen on Saturday.

"We have a coach heading up the M5 and have plenty of reasons to be cheerful about our footballing life.

"Yes, we have taken a knock or two of late, but it's testimony to the players - and the fabulous support we are fortunate to have at Southern Road - that all who took part at Bridgwater, be that on- or off - the pitch, were left disappointed with the outcome in Somerset on Tuesday night, but these things are sent to try us and we are very much 'business as usual' at Town, sporting a most promising future and very much looking forward to the next challenge."

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