Despite seeing them eventually edged out at the end of 210 minutes of FA Trophy football, manager Marc Benterman was full of praise for his Witham Town players after their two preliminary round encounters with Ashford Town.

Witham’s brave attempt to book their place in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy fell just short as they were finally edged out by Ashford in a replay at the Simarco Stadium.

Having drawn 2-2 in Kent at the weekend, the two sides went head to head again in midweek, with United scoring twice in extra-time to secure their progress with a 2-0 win.

Despite the end result, though, there was still pride for Benterman at the final whistle after seeing his team go toe-to-toe with an Ashford side that is flying high in the top three of BetVictor Isthmian League division south east.

He said: “I thought for 185 minutes we were fantastic, but just lacked that final little push on at the end.

“That was unfortunate, but to match a team like they are for 185 minutes and looking at who they have and where they are in their division is pretty special.

“Yes we are disappointed, but we are extremely proud of the group.

“Ashford got into the play-off final last year in their division and when the draw came out putting us up against them, I think people felt it was a hell of a team for us to draw out.

“No-one would want that on their wishlist, but we had chances against them before the 90 minutes was up.

“We could have won that game, but the save their keeper made from Pat Ahern’s header was up there with David Seaman’s against Paul Peschisolido.

“I just hope someone had some video footage of it because you won’t see a better save this year or next year and it kept them in the tie.

“He then pulled off a fantastic one against Scotty Kemp, while we conceded a poor first goal that was probably, on reflection, because we were tired and quite leggy by that point.

“They really grew in that extra-time.

“But we executed the game plan really well in the replay, as we did in the game on Saturday.

“Their strike force is phenomenal and we restricted them to a handful of chances over two games.

“We keep saying we are not too far short, but after that, I think the whole club should be very proud of this group of players and what they have done.”

Benterman now wants to see Witham press on and build on their Trophy performances when they return to BetVictor Isthmian League division north action at Heybridge Swifts on Saturday.

He added: “We were very lucky at Clacton in the FA Cup, so perhaps it levelled itself out with this one in the Trophy.

“They do say over the course of the season that things do even out but fair play to Ashford because they got the job done in the end over 210 minutes.

“But it took them the 210 minutes and I don’t think many people thought that would be the case when the draw for this round was made.

“It’s fine margins and I don’t think that we could have done much more on the night.

“Ashford knew they had been in a game and lived to fight another day, while we have to move on, but I was extremely proud of our group.

“I can’t single anyone out because we did so well as a group and its now about building on those performances each week.

“If we can do that then we’ll surprise a few more this season.

“But it’s no good just saying that on the back of a couple of good Trophy performances, we need to see those points on the table and there is still a long way to go."