Bosses reflected on Chichester City’s day to savour at Tranmere – and vowed to make sure it had a long-lasting legacy for the club.
City lost 5-1 at Prenton Park in Sunday’s FA Cup second round tie but they can look back on the occasion - and their whole seven-round run in the competition - with immense pride.
Now they want to use the £150,000 it has generated to put the club on a stable footing - and use it to inspire the squad to more great achievements.
City are already enjoying their first season at non-league step four and for now the aim is to stay there and perhaps enjoy some more cup success.
Manager Miles Rutherford said he couldn’t be prouder of the players and fans for the effort everyone put in to make Sunday memorable.
He said: “I’m proud of all the players and the fans. I’m upset the Cup run is over as anyone would be but for what we’ve done this year, we couldn’t have asked for any more.
“At some stage it was going to end, we thought it would probably stop a few rounds ago, but once you’re on that roll, you hope it never stops.
“What the players did against Tranmere in the first half was superb. They played their hearts out. When I reflect back on this, I’ll say we were lucky at times to get this far – but what we’ve done is secured the club for three or fours, and you can’t ask for any more.
“In the first half I thought we were a credit to the league we’re in and the county league where we’ve come from. People in the county league will have been looking at that and thinking ‘that’s the team we were playing last year who won our league’ because it basically is the same team who won that league.
“What those players have achieved is fantastic. To be 0-0 at half-time was an achievement but at half-time we were thinking ‘we’ve done really well’ and ‘Can we dream of getting a replay?’ That would have been a fantastic achievement but we’re not moaning that we got beaten 5-1.
“After 55 minutes we knew it was going to be really hard. We had players pulling up with cramp. The biggest disappointment for me was that when Connor Cody was off the pitch they scored the goal. That was a bitter pill to take and then there were two awful bits of defending to give two goals away.
“Ryan Peake scoring at the end was fantastic for all the players and supporters. It brings a smile to people’s faces – we’ve scored at a League One side and that doesn’t happen often. What makes it better was that it was a set-piece and we don’t score many from them!
“It was unbelievable how many supporters were there - absolutely unbelievable. It’s a long way and I saw children in the crowd, people who had brought their kids. It was amazing that they could go all that way.
“I said to every single player I was chuffed for them. They’ve been a credit to the football club.
“I had some tough decisions to make and had to tell a couple of players they weren’t starting and that was probably the worst thing of the day for me. I wish I could have 14, 15, 16 players on the pitch.
“There were some decisions that were hard and that was the worst part, but other than that it was a fantastic day, great support. The players put in a good shift first half, and they did in the second half but I think some of their bodies were saying ‘no more’ which we half expected.
“We say that football should be played with a smile and it should have a little bit of fun about it. That’s why some of these players are playing for Chichester City - because they enjoy what we’re about.
“As a (management) group of four we get on together, make decisions and it’s a good place to be.”
Assistant boss Graeme Gee felt the players and the whole club had made the most of the one-off occasion.
“Sunday was a proud moment for everyone involved with the club. The support was incredible and everyone on the inside of the club appreciated it.
“We tried to approach the match professionally and I think we came out with a bit of credit. It probably won’t be repeated but hopefully we have gained some more supporters.
“I never thought we’d hold out at 0-0 for an hour. Our plan was to try to stay in the game but we were fearful of conceding in the first ten or 15 minutes. Actually for a lot of the first half we were relatively comfortable.
“Afterwards the Tranmere manager Micky Mellon was kind and courteous and said we’d presented them with problems. Everyone enjoyed it and didn’t let it pass them by.
“Now I hope we can keep this group of players together for the rest of this season and next season. We have some good young talent and are a club on the up.”
Gee said the immediate challenge was Saturday’s league trip to Hastings. “They’re one of the very best teams in the league and will have a big crowd. It will be a good challenge for us, a baromoter of where we are in our development. Chris Agutter is doing an excellent job at Hastings.”
Coach Danny Potter said he’d never been so happy about a 5-1 defeat.
“Normally when you lose by that score you’d be disappointed but I can’t praise the players enough. I’m so pleased for them thatthey gave such a good account.
“I think the first half performance took a bit out of them, emotionally and physically, and in the second half tiredness started to show, as did Tranmere’s class. Morgan Ferrier took his goals well.
“I think we deserve credit for trying to play the game and not just setting out to defend. Their manager was full of praise for us.
“Now it’s going to be hard for us for a while as we get our feet back on the ground.
“The club will aim to use the money from the Cup wisely and the players will know they have had a glimpse of professional football and all that goes with it. As coaches, we have learned new lessons and will look to use them to carry on improving the players.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick admitted the players were ‘slightly deflated’ over losing 5-1 but he added: “What a journey they’ve been on.
“I said minute 70 would be the telling point and it was minute 62. Our players go to work and we try to stay as fit as we can but they’re full-time and it was a matter of containing them.
“Our shape was outstanding until the first goal went in. I think we gifted them two or three goals but for an hour we had a decent amount of possession. We could have been a bit calmer on the ball but what they did for us and they city is incredible. I had a lump in my throat looking up and seeing how many people were here for us.
“I hope it’s put Chichester back on the map and people come and watch us. The coaches’ job is to try to get identity in the way we play and that’s a work in progress. That will take a year or two.
“This is over now and now we’re back to the league and get back to do what we’re doing. Our first job is to stay in this league and show some character.”
Don't miss this week's Chichester Observer for reports, reaction and pictures from the Tranmere tie