DANNY Smith knew all about big occasions when he stepped onto the pitch for Gosport Borough’s FA Trophy final at Wembley yesterday.
As a 21-year-old, the Hedge End-based former Eastleigh midfielder had the privilege of lifting the FA Vase for Winchester City at Birmingham’s St Andrews Ground in 2004.
Yesterday, he wound up on the losing side against a quality Cambridge United side who are gunning to return to the Football League and he admitted that, a decade on it was a “totally different” experience.
“Winchester was ten years ago and the feeling now is totally different,” he said. “We always knew it was going to be a tough game against a side from a league above, sitting second in the table.
“We’re not too happy with the scoreline and feel that, as a team, we could have done better.
“We’re disappointed with some of the goals we conceded and feel we could have been more clinical at the other end. I think the lads were too excited and snatched at their chances a bit.
“We don’t feel as if we performed to our full potential.”
Having fallen behind to a 37th-minute Ryan Bird goal, Gosport were given a mountain to climb when Ryan Donaldson struck twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
A Luke Berry penalty sealed their fate and 31-year-old Smith was the unlucky man who gave it away for bringing down substitute Andy Pugh.
“I felt as though he was going to tap the ball in and I tried to block him from getting the ball, but my momentum took me through,” he said.
“I was booked but, to be honest, I felt a bit fortunate to stay on. I don’t know if the ref thought Nathan Ashmore (goalkeeper) was covering round.”
Admitting he’d been left exhausted by his Wembley experience, Smith said: “We’ve had quite a busy agenda. We came up Thursday and chilled in the hotel, then on Friday we had a tour of Wembley and we trained at Reading on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
“Yesterday evening (Saturday) we came to watch rugby at Wembley and this morning we had a team meeting after breakfast.
“It’s a tough balance between not getting bored and not doing too much. It’s been a big build-up, that’s for sure, and I feel emotionally drained now!”
Paying tribute to the travelling Borough fans, Smith added: “It was nice for the town of Gosport to get behind their local team and it made a big difference to have them there giving us a standing ovation at the end.”