Manager Nick Gray was clearly bitterly disappointed to see Whitley lose their FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay against Whickham without performing anywhere near their best. Following a 1-1 draw at Whickham on Friday night, Whitley were comfortably beaten 3-0 in the replay at Hillheads in front of their biggest crowd of the season.
“It was a very disappointing result. Good luck to Whickham, they were the best team on the night. We were poor first half on Friday, did ok second half, but over the two games we weren’t good enough. It’s as simple as that. First half today wasn’t acceptable. I’m gutted for the club, gutted for the fans, gutted for the players even. I just think it was a disappointing night. It’s a tough one to take if I’m being honest. In there I don’t say a lot after games because I try and gather my thoughts. But I’ve got to question us as a group about our mentality. It comes from me at the top. I’m the one who takes the flak. I take the blame, but we didn’t have our first shot on target until the 89th minute. If that’s the case I don’t expect to win games of football. You talk about incentives, the draw was made beforehand so that does give you an incentive but it doesn’t give you the right to win games. That’s why I’m gutted for the club, because it would’ve been a good occasion. It’ll be a good occasion for Whickham. You could hear from the two dressing rooms the difference between winning and losing is massive. You’ve really got to look at yourself in the mirror and take the criticism and take things on board. When everything’s going rosy that’s great, but you learn from your disappointing days and today was certainly a disappointing day. We go to training on Thursday night and see what we’ve got for Saturday. When I say learn from it you’ve got to take it on board. There are some things you’re not going to like. To be better, to improve you’ve got to take that criticism and it’s got to mean more. I just thought at the end of the day on a nice pitch we weren’t great in the first half. We explained what we wanted to do before the game and I think we had two players I’d give seven out of ten today, and you can’t win games of football with two players. It’s tough to do this interview but I’ll take it because I’ve got to do it, but you’ve got to take the criticism, the rough with the smooth.”
The games keep coming thick and fast, and on Saturday Whitley are at Bishop Auckland, then they travel to Tow Law on Tuesday evening. The packed August schedule does not please Gray. “Why they play all these midweek games when everybody’s got people on holiday I don’t know. Even the fitness levels aren’t the best this early in the season, and they expect players to play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. But listen we’re in the same boat as everyone else and we’ve got to brush ourselves down and we’ve got to show a reaction on Saturday, and if I’m honest I’ve got to look and see who’s going to give us a reaction and I’ve got to have confidence in the squad that they going to do that.”