Stowmarket Town manager Paul Musgrove vows 'we'll be back again' following painful play-off semi-final defeat at Brentwood Town
Paul Musgrove certainly felt his Stowmarket Town side did not deserve to be reflecting on a play-off semi-final defeat but has underlined the determination to learn from the experience to go one better next year.
Should Brentwood Town not win tomorrow night’s Pitching In Isthmian League North Division final at Canvey Island, the Old Gold & Blacks will head into next season feeling like they have a few scores to settle with them.
Off the back of a 1-1 draw at The Arena in September, they only had to avoid defeat against the Blues at Greens Meadow on Saturday to gain home advantage against them in the play-offs.
But an 85th-minute winner from Andy Freeman ended up sealing what was described as a ‘smash-and-grab’ 1-0 scoreline to see Brentwood leapfrog Stow into a third-placed finish.
Down on the fringes of the M25 their poor end-of-season form – having fell out of the title race with just 10 points collected from their last 10 matches, the fourth worst in the division – continued with a 2-1 defeat on Tuesday.
It could not have been delivered in a more cruel fashion though. Craig Parker’s excellent half volley in the 86th minute drew them level at 1-1 and heading for extra-time, until Ashley Nzala headed home from close-range in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Reflecting on the pitch, Musgrove, in his first full season as manager after stepping up from Rick Andrews’ assistant in November 2020, said: “As the saying goes that’s football, isn’t it?
“I thought we dominated a lot of the game. To be fair we played the better football against a very direct team on quite a poor surface.
“I thought the boys counter-acted it really well and second half I thought they were excellent.”
When the dust settles their first season since promotion from the Thurlow Nunn League is set to be viewed as a successful one, despite their form deserting them in the run-in.
And it leaves a clear target to go for in 2022/23, following a campaign which saw them end the highest of the four Suffolk sides, with Felixstowe & Walton United finishing a point behind and also losing their semi-final.
“The aim is to make sure that Stowmarket aren’t a one-season wonder in Step 4,” said Musgrove.
“Like I said to everyone when we were going into Step 4, we look at all the teams that have achieved Step 4 for many years and we aspire to be like that.
“So one season won’t define us and one play-off semi-final won’t define us either.
“We’ll come back and we’ll make sure that we’re right again.”
Looking at where things went wrong in Tuesday’s showdown, which saw Tom Richardson’s goal from inside the area put his side behind midway through the first period, Musgrove said: “It took us a little while to adjust to the pitch.
“I thought the first goal was a poor goal, we didn’t clear our lines and gave them a sniff and that’s what that lad Richardson does.”
He was pleased with the way his side responded in the second half as they chased the game but felt they could have handled the stoppage time period better.
“At the end of the day maybe we were a little bit naive. We got a free kick just inside their half and we’ve just flicked it into the box and their keeper has caught it. They’ve countered and they’ve got a long throw as well so I thought we were maybe a bit naive there,” he said.
“At that point we thought we would probably win it in the 90 minutes, let alone go to extra-time.”
Put to him Brentwood had done a real job on them over the two games in four days, he said it was part of his side’s learning curve.
“They have done but at the end of the day you’ve got to learn from it and make sure you come back stronger from it because we’re a good team with good pedigree,” he said.
“We’ve just got to make sure we improve on what we’ve done this season.”
Tuesday’s goalscorer Parker cut a forlorn figure left on the pitch by himself staring towards the goal they attacked from the centre-circle for more than 15 minutes.
Asked if it may be an indicator the former Bury Town, Needham Market and AFC Sudbury goalscoring midfielder might be considering hanging his boots up, Musgrove said: “I don’t think so. The older you get you reflect a little bit more and he is a wise lad.
"At the end of the day he has scored a good goal and is just reflecting on the game, I wouldn’t look too far into it.”