Dominic Di Paola branded Horsham’s 2-0 home loss to National League South outfit Dartford on Saturday in the FA Cup second qualifying round as an ‘opportunity missed’.
Although the Hornets exited the competition against their league-above opposition, Di Paola’s side controlled large swathes of the game.
Horsham peppered the Dartford goal with shots in the first half but came up against an inspired performance from Darts keeper Mark Smith.
The Hornets were made to rue these spurned opportunities as Darren McQueen struck before the break to give the visitors the lead.
The second half was more of the same. Horsham bossed possession but couldn’t force the elusive equaliser.
The tie was put to bed in second half stoppage time as Luke Allen popped up to seal Dartford’s passage into the third qualifying round.
Despite defeat, Di Paola praised a ‘brilliant’ performance from his charges but stressed that the Hornets ‘need to punish teams’.
He said: “I thought we were brilliant. We limited them to just a shot in the first half.
“We just dominated. We dominated all the ball, we dominated all the chances. We had them on the rack.
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“The negative is again, just like the Folkestone game, when we were on top we haven’t punished teams.
“The challenge for us is, when we are on top, we need to punish teams because we are good enough to punish teams.
“That’s the next step for us as a team. Not necessarily to get us promoted, but enough to get us to the next step as a group.
“You can say unlucky, but perhaps we weren’t unlucky because we had the chances to score and we should’ve scored a couple of them.
“It’s probably an opportunity missed I think. But if we can take those performances and keep trying to improve as a group, we’ll be OK this year.”
Di Paola also revealed at the final whistle his thoughts immediately turned to how the Hornets can kick on and ‘improve more’.
He added: “The first thing after the game, I’m looking at where we can improve more and where we can be better.
“We’ve got an ambitious group of players and a management team that want to keep improving.”