Blackstones beaten by Holbeach United in Kitman UK United Counties League Cup clash
Blackstones were unable to match Holbeach United's ruthless streak as hopes of a second successive Premier Division scalp were dashed in Wednesday night's Kitman UK League Cup clash at the ALH Recruitment Stadium.
Stones had netted five times in their victory over Premier Division visitors Sleaford Town in the previous round of the United Counties League knock-out competition.
But they were unable to take their chances at crucial moments in Wednesday's second round tussle as the Tigers struck three times without reply to earn a home tie with Melton Town in the quarter-finals.
Joint manager Lee Clarke felt the experience of a seasoned Holbeach side proved the difference against his high-flying Division One charges.
Clarke said: “Holbeach are a top Premier Division side.
“They are little bit more professional in their concentration levels than us and were more street-wise.
“I don’t think there was a massive gulf in the quality of the players, but we are still learning about the other side of the game.
“Their goalkeeper has made two very good saves at 0-0 and, if we had scored from one of them, then you never what might have happened.
“We were a little bit disappointed that their goals were avoidable from our point of view. We were a little bit sloppy.
“But we had a chat at half-time and I thought we defended really well in the second half.
“Holbeach were deserved winners, but we again had a couple of good chances and a stone-wall penalty turned down. That didn’t cost us the game, but it would have made for an interesting last 10 or 15 minutes.
“Holbeach know how to win games though. They have got a lot of experienced players who have been in the Premier Division for a long time. They win games with experience which was the difference.”
In their first outing for a fortnight following the postponement of last Saturday's Division One trip to St Andrews, Stones had the best chances of the opening exchanges.
Clarke brought out an excellent save from debutant Holbeach goalkeeper James Doughty who was replacing the unavailable Rick Drury.
Doughty - who has considerable experience at United Counties League level - had to reach out at full stretch to finger-tip a looping Clarke header onto the crossbar.
Former Deeping Rangers frontman Jonny Lockie fired a shot into the home side-netting after a lively burst down the left before Stones created the best chance of the game so far.
Jones De Sousa was set free on goal but, with just Doughty to beat, the custodian got a crucial touch on his effort to deflect the shot wide.
The save was to prove crucial as Holbeach broke the deadlock shortly after on the 24-minute mark.
Will Bird picked up the ball midway in the Stones half and, as the home defence backed off, the former Ketton marksman made the most of the space opening up in front of him by surging forward and arrowing a low shot into the bottom of the net.
It took Holbeach just another eight minutes to double their advantage as Luke Wilson's superb through ball was matched by an equally impressive finish from Luke Avis who lofted his shot over the exposed Aaron Bellairs to give the Tigers a comfortable cushion at half-time.
Stones could have got themselves back in the contest early in the second half when Ben Cowles homed in on the Holbeach goal, but he took an extra touch which allowed Doughty to block from close range with the rebound just evading the incoming Clarke.
Avis could then have wrapped the tie up for Holbeach when he raced clear but Bellairs produced an excellent block to deny the former Blackstones player a second goal against his old club.
Stones then responded with a strong spell of pressure which saw them have penalty appeals turned down after they felt Jonny Fairweather appeared to handle from a Martyn Fox header in the area.
A scramble in the Holbeach area when Doughty punched clear a corner then fell invitingly for Clarke, but his effort was brilliantly blocked by Joe Braithwaite who was injured in the process and unable to take any further part in the contest.
Holbeach were then forced to finish the match with 10 men when Stamford loanee Liam Adams was sin-binned late on after disputing a decision from referee Tom Beeton.
But Stones were unable to make their one-man advantage count as Holbeach defied the setbacks to add a third in the 89th minute.
Substitute Josh Ford was bundled over in the box by Matt Simpson and picked himself up to fire home the resultant spot kick and seal the Tigers place in the last eight.
Stones: Bellairs, Easson, Bates, Pell, Simpson, Young, Cowles (Edmondson), Moore-Papworth, De Sousa (Morley), Clarke, Fox. Subs not used: Fryett, Buttery.
Holbeach: Doughty, Wilson, T Smith, N Jackson, Braithwaite (J Smith), A Jackson, Avis (Ford), Tinkler (Fairweather), Lockie, Adams, Bird.