Matt Whitehead’s FA Cup dream is over – but he insists being defeated at Middlesbrough on Saturday was a better experience than playing at Wembley.
The Worthing-based defender took a lot of pride in his side’s performance as Hastings United suffered a 4-1 defeat at The Riverside.
Ryman League Premier Division team Hastings were the lowest-ranked side left in the competition, although their record-breaking run was ended by the Championship side.
Whitehead, 21, said: “It was an experience I will never forget, it was just incredible. The fans’ support was amazing – just over 1,000 came up, which was Middlesbrough’s biggest away attendance of the season, which for a Ryman League side playing at a Championship club really says something.
“The day itself, losing 4-1, I think the scoreline blights the performance as we had a disallowed goal and Bradley Goldberg rounded the keeper but was given offside.
“And two of the goals we conceded were pretty poor, so it could have been different, but, obviously, it was really hard work.
“Our main thinking was everyone had to give 110 per cent and I think everyone gave that.”
The former Worthing FC left-back, who had previously played for England Schools at Wembley, added: “I mean playing at Wembley, the home of football, is every boy’s dream and incredible.
“But this was men’s football and about trying to get a result, the English School Boys was youth football.
“The atmosphere was far better and it meant a bit more than playing at Wembley.”