Tom Bullard admitted Bury Town let themselves down with slack defending against Eastleigh as they crashed out of the FA Trophy, 3-0 in the first round on Saturday.
The Blues’ skipper held his hands up for allowing substitute Craig McAllister to get in front of him to head the Skrill Conference South side’s third, shortly after the break, from which their was to be no route back into the tie.
But he was disappointed that two other errors at the back had undone all their good work in the opening 45 minutes, with much-travelled Football League goalscorer Ben Strevens twice taking advantage, leaving the Suffolk side with a mountain to climb against their higher-league opponents.
“They played well but I thought we let ourselves down with set pieces and sloppy goals — we dealt with everything else to be fair,” said Bullard, who hobbled through to the end of the game after picking up a metatarsal injury.
“Their keeper has pulled off as many saves as ours, but I’m just disappointed with the manner of the goals they have scored.
“We came out second half and showed a lot of character, but the third goal has killed us once again.”
With Seb Dunbar (hamstring) injured, Joe Whight shifted to left-back with Adam Bailey-Dennis (knee) returning to central defence while youngster Ross Bailey replaced the cup-tied Danny Cunningham in the midfield.
Manager Richard Wilkins had warned about their gameplan being effectively ripped up if they were to concede in the opening 15 minutes and the Spitfires had their noses in front after just 11 minutes.
From what was already their fourth corner, Strevens outjumped Miles Smith at the near post and headed above Marcus Garnham’s reach.
Bury had to be patient as the visitors dominated possession but gradually grew into the game with livewire Ryan Semple forcing Eastleigh custodian Ross Flitney to turn away his effort with an outstretched foot.
The ball soon kept coming back though, with ex-professional Stuart Fleetwood spurning a good chance while Chris Todd sent an ambitious overhead kick over the crossbar.
But it was on the break that Eastleigh, and Strevens, had their second, with the number seven tapping home after Garnham could only push Yemi Odubade’s angled shot across goal.
Bury started the second half with a new-found determination, but the wind was soon knocked out of their sails in the 56th minute when another ex-professional, former Crawley Town title winner McAllister, was able to celebrate the birth of his child in the early hours of the morning in Southampton with a headed goal at the near post from a left by-line free-kick just 11 minutes after coming off the bench.
As the Skrill Conference South’s second-placed side switched to cruise control, Bury had a number of chances to get on the scoresheet, but were thwarted by the agility of Flitney.
His best save came from Bullard’s downward header, diving to his right to claw away, while he also threw out a foot to deny Billy Clark, got one hand to substitute Jack Higgs’ excellent self-created dipping volley and watched on as Adam Bailey-Dennis and Semple both put over late on.
Garnham also excelled in the second period, coming off his line to deny Strevens a hat-trick, while a risky but superbly-executed sliding lunge from Bullard stopped an almost certain fourth by preventing Michael Green connecting to an incisive throughball.
Bury captain Bullard now hopes the removal of another distraction to their league campaign, albeit unwanted, could help with their play-off bid.
“We have a big run of fixtures in December now, so we can concentrate on that now and we just need to kick on and move up the table,” he said.
n Bury Town SuperDraw week 26 results: £1,000 Mrs McClusky; £150 P Hanrahan; £100 H Bradley; £75 Mrs Kenealy; £50 Mr Carter, M Poole; £25 S Lloyd, K Grass, J Jones, M Cooper. The birth date drawn was 19/11/43 — no winners. Next week: £300.