WAYNE BENN was very disappointed to see his Ossett United side end their West Riding County Cup defence “with a whimper” as an unfortunate own goal saw them deservedly beaten at Thackley in the quarter-finals (2-1).
United beat Halifax and Guiseley to win the competition last year in their first season but a very underwhelming performance on Tuesday night, against opposition a division below, saw any hope of retaining the trophy come to an end.
Tyler Walker, one of four Academy players to step up to the bench in the absence of several cup-tied first-team players, filled in at left-back following injuries during the game to James Knowles and Jack Stockdill, and his own goal settled a tie that Thackley fully deserved to win.
Benn said: “The young lad has gone on and plugged a gap so I’ve no issues with him, it’s an unfortunate one. He won’t feel great about that but I’ve tried to tell him not to worry.
“We looked a little bit leggy and tired having to play the same players constantly. We’re missing several players that are cup-tied, but that’s no excuse. The team that took the field were good enough to get a result.
“For me, only in the 15 minutes at the start of the second half have we played anything like where we should be. I’m very disappointed. I’m struggling to understand the nature of the performance, with a semi-final spot at stake. It’s a cup that we’re defending and we’ve lost with a whimper.”
Thackley made the quicker start and were looking the more dangerous, with wingers Albert Ibrahimi and Ray Sibanda particularly threatening when they got forward with the ball.
However, it was Ossett who managed to find the breakthrough after 28 minutes. With the home side temporarily down to 10 men as Simon Poole was bandaged up, play was switched by Nick Guest to find Luke Porritt in space down the right and he lifted in a perfect cross for Brodie Litchfield to head in.
Ibrahimi shot narrowly wide in added time as Thackley pushed for a response, although it was United who had the brighter start the other side of the break. Luke Wilson denied Tom Greaves early on, and he later made a fantastic save to keep out a header from skipper Knowles.
With the help of a double substitution, Thackley managed to turn the tide back in their favour, levelling the scores after 61 minutes as Ibrahimi was allowed too much space in the area to head home Asa Mitchell’s cross.
Greaves headed a Porritt cross wide but Ossett increasingly struggled to get forward. Forced into two changes at the back, their makeshift defence was tested time and again by balls in behind. Brett Souter came out of goal to make one good save with his legs at the expense of an injury that he bravely played on with.
There was nothing he could do to prevent the deciding goal though, as a ball came across goal and Walker misjudged his attempt to put it behind for a corner and instead found the net.
Ossett return to league action tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 3pm) away at Workington, who they travel to again three days later in the League Cup, and Benn expects a reaction from his 18th-placed side against a team challenging for promotion.
“I’m sure we’ll get a much better performance on Saturday,” said the manager. “Whether that will be good enough against the best team in the league currently I don’t know, but the frustrating part is that on our day we’re a match for anybody.
“We’ve got to get a level of consistency where we’re performing at a seven or eight out of 10 and once we’re doing that, individually and collectively, we’ll start to pick up points and move away from where we are in the league.”