WITHAM Town manager Mark Ashford spoke of his pride as his young guns stood tall and delivered some excellent performances even though it wasn’t enough to see them progress in the Velocity Trophy.

A youthful Witham side, that included three 18-year-olds making their first-team full debuts, were beaten 1-0 at Maldon & Tiptree as Billy Roast’s 66th minute goal sent the Jammers into the third round.

Maldon are flying high in Bostik League division north, while Witham are second from bottom, but the young Town players were not disgraced.

Ashford said: “No-one likes to lose a game of football, but I was really proud of the players.

“I thought it was a great advert for step four football and Maldon played how you would want all of your opponents to play because it was a real tactical battle for us.

“We had to be really switched on tactically and bearing in mind we had three 18-year-olds making their debuts, I thought we did really well.

“We wanted to rest some players for Friday (for the FA Trophy game), so I brought in Jack Lelliott, Tom Blackwell and Alfie Cerulli and they were superb.

“We then had 18-year-old Toni Parades, an 18-year-old keeper in Luca Collins, a 19-year-old centre back Jack Kemsley, a 20-year-old full-back in Liam Whipps, a 21-year-old captain in Danny Norton in midfield – it goes on.

“So, for me, for us to be able to go to Maldon and play a side like that with some very good talented and experienced players in there and a very good manager in Wayne Brown and to put on the performance that we did, I was so proud of them.

“The overall feeling was one of pride and I felt we got a lot out of it.

“Those three players making debuts did very well and I’d have no hesitation in bringing them into the squad in future games.

“I was very proud of them and they should be proud of themselves.

“If you’re going to lose a game of football, then that’s the way to lose it. Maldon are a very good side and whoever finishes above them this year should win the league, but we were brave and we kept the ball and passed it.

“We were not fazed by the pressure we were under and I felt it was a fantastic performance from a very young side.

“When you step back from it, those young players will only benefit from playing in that game.”

In Velocity Trophy action elsewhere, Coggeshall Town also advanced as they won 2-0 at AFC Hornchurch thanks to strikes by Tevan Allen and Aaron Condon.