IT would have been easy to accuse Kidderminster Harriers boss Andy Thorn of going a little overboard in praise of his players after their fourth round cup exit.
After all, “magnificent” is not an adjective you would normally apply to a team which has had less than 30 per cent possession in a game and also failed to score.
But Thorn perceived how this game could have gone had Sunderland delivered on their early promise.
And, tactically, he and his players could hardly have done much better than managing to keep themselves in the game with a chance of snatching something at the death.
“We’ve come to a Premier League football club as a Conference team and I thought our performance was a very worthy one,” said the former Coventry boss.
“We knew that if we came to Sunderland and were open, the game would be over by half-time.
“We couldn’t do that – we had to be conservative and bide our time.
“It was disappointing to concede so early, but at least we kept ourselves in with a chance in the dying few minutes.
“Sometimes when you concede as early as we did, it can go on to become a cricket score against you.
“So I was immensely proud of the players. I thought they were magnificent.
“I was really pleased with the way we regrouped and the fact that the players were bitterly disappointed afterwards in the dressing room that we didn’t get a draw, I think that speaks volumes.”
Thorn, a former centre-half himself, added: “I was also pleased with the way we defended.
“Most of Sunderland’s efforts came from long range and we didn’t really get opened up until the last 10 minutes, when they put two strikers on at a time when we were going for it, looking to get a goal.
“So there were a lot of positives for us to take out of the game.
“We had a great week in the build-up with our exposure and profile and the icing on the cake would have been a draw.
“But, for me, the icing on the cake was our performance – we believe we can use it as a springboard in the league because we set standards at Sunderland and we can only get better.”
Thorn went on to praise every single one of his players and insist that the club’s goal this season remains automatic promotion, despite the sixth-placed side being 15 points behind Skrill Conference Premier leaders Luton.
That seemed a tad optimistic – a bit like his appraisal of the cup display against Sunderland – but Thorn more than most is entitled to dream.
As a winner of the FA Cup in 1988 when un-fancied Wimbledon somehow beat the relentlessly successful Liverpool at Wembley, Thorn has earned the right to aim high.