FC Halifax Town 1-3 AFC Wimbledon: Can’t ask any more of the players, says Fullarton after FA Cup exit

Actions from FC Halifax Town v AFC Wimbledon, FA Cup R2, at the Shay
Actions from FC Halifax Town v AFC Wimbledon, FA Cup R2, at the Shay

Town boss Jamie Fullarton said his players gave it everything in their 3-1 defeat at home to League One AFC Wimbledon in the second round of the FA Cup.

The Shaymen were unlucky to go in 1-0 down at half-time after dominating the opening half and hitting the post through Matty Kosylo before Ben Purrington’s goal just before the interval.

Further goals by Anthony Wordsworth and Joe Piggott put The Dons out of reach before substitute James Hanson’s late own goal.

“Bitterly disappointed, but that’s the reality of football isn’t it?” said Fullarton after the game.

“When you’re on top and play like we did, create the chances we did, it’s vital that you score them.

“And then Wimbledon showed they’ve got quality. Whatever way you want to look at it, they’re two divisions above us.

“Their first two goals are exceptional strikes, which changed the course of the game.”

Fullarton admitted his side just lacked the required quality in the final third to take their chances.

“It’s the old adage of what happens in both boxes,” he said.

“That was the reality for us. But you can’t ask any more of the players, I thought they were immense in their approach, their attitude towards it, some of the passages of play, in particular in the first-half, I thought were excellent.

“I’m disappointed for them, not with them, because they gave everything, which I asked of them.

“Ultimately, over the piece, it was a reality check of a little bit of quality in that final third, leading to us being out of the cup.”

Wimbledon’s opening goal was a real sucker-punch for Town, who had by the far the better of the opening half, yet went in behind at the break.

“Life isn’t fair, I say that to my children!” said Fullarton.

“That adage of there being a bad time for a goal, I don’t agree with that. There’s never a good time to concede a goal, and there’s always a good time to score.

“But taking into account the first-half, how it panned out, the chances that we created, the momentum that we were playing with, and overall performance, it’s difficult when it’s just a couple of minutes before half-time.

“But you have another opportunity, another 45 minutes, so while you say that, if they score in the last five minutes then you’re dead and buried.

“At that point, we’ve still got 50 minutes to get something back.

“But the second goal is the killer, not so much the first goal. Because that changes the course of the game.”

The Town boss felt his side should have been awarded a penalty on the verge of half-time for an alleged foul on Dayle Southwell, who was then booked for his protestations.

“From the angle we were at, it looked like he was pulled back,” Fullarton said.

“Obviously it wasn’t a penalty because the referee never gave it.”

After a strong first-half, The Shaymen weren’t the same side after the interval, while Wimbledon improved after an underwhelming opening 45.

“It petered out, but you’ve got to put it into context,” said Fullarton.

“You’re playing against a League One team that are two divisions above us.

“And the players’ level of effort didn’t drop, but the difference between levels - whether it’s from Premier League to Championship to League One - is sustainability.

“Our aim as we progress, is to be able to do that (first-half performance) for 95 minutes. If you do that, you’re a League One club, or we progress like that.

“That’s the aim. At any point in any game, you always have a spell in the game.

“What we’ve got to do is manage that, when they had their spell, which we didn’t, which led to the second goal, which changed the course of the game.”

Fullarton wants his side to take the positives from the game.

“There’s three outcomes from today, which I’ve talked about before, where they show they’re far better than you and you’re out of the cup, or it’s the old valiant effort and you’re unlucky and put in a good account of yourselves, which was today,” he said.

“We tried to avoid that and we were hoping to be in the draw for the third round but we didn’t.

“But I’m glad it wasn’t the ‘far too good for you and they show why they’re two divisions above you’, and it’s great credit to the players, because individually and collectively, I don’t think you can ask any more of them.

“What we are going to ask of them is to learn from what happened, and take the positives.

“When you’ve lost, you’ve lost, so it’s very difficult, but in the performance, their attitude, the way they went toe-to-toe, and probably for about an hour, you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

“But goals change games, and that second goal resulted in the game petering out for us, which was maybe the slight disappointment from today.”

Midfielder Cameron King was forced off injured in the second-half, although Fullarton said it was too early to assess the severity or exact nature of the injury.

However, the Town boss has called on his side to reproduce their first-half performance on a more regular basis in future.

“We’ve got to look to replicate that and be able to sustain it for the 95 minutes,” he added.

“Which is a tall ask, but that’s the aim, that’s where we’re striving for.

“When you look at the different levels, it’s decision-making under pressure or when you’re fatigued.

“And hopefully as we progress, we get better at that, which results in us being in the game longer, and hopefully we can transmit it into the league campaign.”