BRACKNELL Town hold aspirations to become a Southern League side, having only failed at the final hurdle last season, writes Dave Wright.

So their 4-0 defeat by Winchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday helped to highlight the standards they need to achieve.

They were not quite four goals inferior to their visitors, even more than holding their own for part of the tie, but they fell short in the final third.

The Citizens were clinical in their finishing, while the Robins squandered chances on a day when their attacks frequently broke down due to a lack of cohesion and a cutting edge.

Yet this preliminary round tie started promisingly for Town and they were extremely unlucky not to have taken an early lead.

They had two efforts blocked in the City goalmouth before Adam Cornell’s rising shot carried so much velocity that it made the crossbar shake.

Even at this early stage, the game was becoming physical with Winchester’s physio twice needed on the field in the opening 15 minutes and on the second occasion forward Olly Bailey was forced to limp off after being on the end of a strong challenge by Rob Gerrard.

Town’s left-back escaped a booking for that tackle, but he didn’t when bringing down Rob Carr with 25 minutes gone.

With Bailey’s replacement, Simba Mlambo, having an influence in City’s attacks down the flanks, Winchester started to come a lot more into the game, with skipper Jamie Barron giving as much as he was receiving from Town dynamo, Jamie McClurg, in a physical midfield battle.

And their first spell of sustained pressure led to the visitors taking a 33rd-minute lead when Andrew Jenkinson gained possession down City’s left flank and fired a low shot past keeper Chris Grace into the far corner.

Moments later, Grace produced a brilliant save to prevent Rob Carr adding a quick second.

Bracknell quickly turned defence into attack and Seb Bowerman was only denied an equaliser by Jenkinson’s block close to the line.

However, they slipped further behind in the 39th minute. With Gerrard fearing a second yellow card, he could only look on as Carr motored into the penalty area and turned Joe Gater before sliding the ball home.

Town’s finishing was nowhere up to the same standard with their play in the final third simply not good enough against quality opposition.

They did make an encouraging start to the second half when Liam Ferdinand, set up by Cornell, saw his shot pushed around the post by Ryan Pryce.

On 51 minutes they were reduced to 10 men when Gerrard was sent off after being shown a yellow card for the second time.

Yet Town didn’t allow their heads to drop and, with Bowerman and Joe Grant switching wings, they went on to enjoy a good spell, stringing some promising moves together better than they had all game, with Ferdinand not far away from pulling a goal back.

However, any hopes they had of getting back into the game ended in the 73rd minute when, following a free-kick, Rob Flooks saw his first effort pushed out by Grace, only to follow-up with a powerful close-range finish.

The keeper made two more excellent stops before being beaten for a fourth time five minutes from the end, when Pat Cox turned in a cross following good work by substitutes Mlambo and Ik Hill, who had only been on the field for two minutes.