Grimsby Town joint boss Paul Hurst demands improvement after FA Cup exit against Kidderminster
"IF we start like that against Macclesfield on Saturday we will be more than 3-0 down."
That was the stark assessment of Grimsby Town joint boss Paul Hurst following the Mariners' FA Cup exit at the first hurdle.
Kidderminster Harriers – currently sitting in the Conference's bottom four – departed Blundell Park with a 4-2 victory from the Fourth Qualifying Round clash.
But it was the opening 18 minutes that effectively sealed Town's fate – and left the home crowd stunned – as the visitors stormed into a three-goal lead.
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And Hurst wants his players to use that as a warning ahead of their return to league action against Macclesfield this weekend.
"As a group we've let ourselves down in the first 18 minutes and ultimately paid the price by being out of the FA Cup," he said.
"That's disappointing – yesterday there were fans all over the country for various teams, including Kidderminster, watching that First Round draw. That doesn't mean anything to us now.
"It's not quite about just concentrating on the league, because there's the Trophy to come as well.
"But we've said we wanted to go as far as we could in the competition – we know we weren't going to win it, let's be honest.
"So Saturday was a real frustration, particularly in terms of the start to the game. If we start like that against Macclesfield we will be more than 3-0 down, so we have to make sure we're right and, if we need to, use that as a warning.
"Our parting shot to the players after the game was 'remember this and the way the game started, in terms of getting up for a game beforehand and being right straight from the kick-off.'
"There's no bigger reminder of that for them than that first 18 minutes."
Although the Mariners battled back to make the score 3-2 at the break, they were unable to force an equaliser in the second half. And a stoppage time sucker-punch from their visitors confirmed the end of Town's FA Cup involvement for another season.
Hurst said: "It all comes down to our poor start – yes, we almost got a replay but almost isn't good enough. You just can't start a game like that.
"Every time they went forward in the first 10-15 minutes they looked like they were going to score.
"We had a good chance just before all that when Dayle (Southwell) hit the target, but he's not caught it how he would have liked.
"After that we were 3-0 down before we knew it.
"There was a shout from the crowd, saying 'are we going for a record score?' They obviously meant a defeat, and the way it was going it felt like it could have been.
"We got ourselves back in it, but it's always going to come back to that first 18 minutes."
He continued: "We've come up against 4-3-3 formations on a regular basis and we've managed it and created problems.
"But for whatever reason, we just weren't on it. Their centre-forward in that period caused problems and that allowed their midfield to push on – there were runners from there and we were just too open.
"So we changed it and matched them up. We got the first goal back before the change, but still felt we needed to adjust.
"I thought we played well after that, but that's secondary because we lost."
Hurst was also quick to defend the decision to rest captain Craig Disley for the clash, and give young Andi Thanoj an opportunity in centre-midfield.
The skipper entered the fray just 20 minutes in as the bosses made a tactical reshuffle, but limped off again 18 minutes later after taking a kick to the foot.
"People may question team selection, but the changes were enforced on us with the exception of Craig," Hurst explained.
"He has played every minute and while he's a fit lad we just felt it was a chance to bring in Andi, who had a pretty good game.
"I don't think anyone can suggest that the performance and start was down to Andi's inclusion."