Blackstones boss Andy Lodge believes his side’s decent display against derby rivals Deeping Rangers shows they are moving in the right direction.
The Division One visitors gave an excellent account of themselves against their high-flying top flight hosts in Tuesday night’s Lincolnshire Senior Trophy tussle at the Haydon Whitham Stadium.
The Stamford side also had reason to feel aggrieved at the turning point of the game which swung the contest in Rangers’ favour.
Having seen Joe Papworth cancel out Dan Schiavi’s opener within two minutes of the start of the second half, a disputed corner decision went against Blackstones and Jonny Clay rifled Deeping back in front just before the hour mark.
Home skipper David Burton-Jones then added a third goal for Deeping to secure their place in the quarter-finals against Holbeach United.
But, despite the defeat, Lodge was delighted with the performance of his charges against a Deeping side he rates very highly.
Lodge said: “I thought the lads were superb. They gave their all and I was really pleased.
“I was with impressed with Deeping.
“They are a good side and one of the top teams in the Premier Division, but I thought we approached and dealt with things really well.
“They were the better side than us and controlled large parts of the game, but it’s frustrating when a big decision goes against you.
“Anything can happen in cup matches and, even though they missed a few chances, we were still in it, but there is nothing we as managers can do about decisions – we just have to accept it.
“It didn’t cost us the game, but we might have been able to hold on a bit longer and, going in the last 15 minutes of a cup match, you just never know.
“It was a really good session for us though. Our lads were pushed to the limit which will be good for their fitness as well.
“We are making good steps and it shows we are moving in the right direction.
Both sides created openings in a tight opening period as home marksman Scott Mooney steered an effort narrowly wide before Blackstones full-back made Ben Easson made a great saving tackle to deny Schiavi a clear shot on goal.
Matt Carter brought a decent save out of Deeping goalkeeper Dan Bircham who palmed away his goalbound effort while Jason Kilbride flashed a shot wide for the hosts who took the lead seven minutes before half-time.
A well-executed through ball was latched onto by Schiavi who held off Easson’s challenge before firing past the advancing Aaron Bellairs.
Bellairs then did well to deny Mooney from close range with Coupland putting the follow up wide as Deeping finished the opening half seeking a second goal.
However, their lead was cancelled out just two minutes into the second half as Papworth collected a fine through ball from Jones de Sousa before firing home to bring back Blackstones level.
But parity lasted just 10 minutes as Rangers regained the lead after being awarded a second corner in succession.
It appeared Clay had headed wide from the first corner, but the decision went against Blackstones and the home defender was alert from the second delivery as the ball fell for him to rifle home.
The goal rocked Blackstones and the hosts soon added a third as good work from Henry Dunn created the opening for Burton-Jones to slot home.
Mooney had an effort ruled out for offside while Dunn fired wide after a slick passing move as Deeping finished on top to march on in a competition which they reached the final of last season.
Rangers: Bircham, Ward, Marsden, Burton-Jones, Hunnings, Clay, Kilbride (Coulson), Dunn Avis), Mooney, Coupland (Conyard). Not used: Waumsley, Barrand.
Blackstones: Bellairs, Easson, Bates (Buttery), Pell, Wilmer, Boome, Porter, Papworth, Carter (Harrold), Ginty, de Sousa. Not used: French, Lodge.