A BATTLING performance from Heybridge Swifts wasn’t enough beat the odds against League Two Exeter City, as they bowed out of the FA Cup in the first round.

A quick-fire double from Exeter’s Jayden Stockley had put the hosts clear, before the Swifts got the goal their performance deserved through winger Sam Bantick.

Any hopes of an equaliser were ended late on, as Exeter substitute Liam McAlinden sealed a 3-1 win for the home side with the help of a goalkeeping error.

The visitors had to weather a storm in the opening exchanges. First Stockley headed over the bar straight from kick off, before Rueben Reid poked an effort wide of Danny Sambridge’s goal from twelve yards out in the fourth minute.

Stockley continued to cause the back line problems as he met Dean Moxey’s cross at the back post but could only head wide of the goal.

Jody Brown’s men grew into the game as the half progressed. On the 17th minute, midfielder Harrison Chatting sent an effort over Christy Pym’s goal, kick-starting a strong spell for the swifts masterminded by Bantick and fellow winger Joan Luque.

When Luque found the overlapping Ben Sampayo in the 21st minute, the left back cut inside nicely, and saw his shot deflected wide by a desperate Exeter defence.

Shortly after, Luque was brought down on the flank, and from the subsequent free kick a goalmouth scramble ended with Swifts centre back Jack Cawley firing over.

Exeter continued to threaten through Jake Taylor, who fired just wide from distance shortly before half time, but it was an evenly contested affair, and the side from the 8th tier deservedly made it into the break on level terms.

The Grecians came out firing in the second half, and it took a fantastic goal line clearance from Sampayo to keep out Stockley’s 52nd minute volley.

However, the deadlock was broken by the striker just five minutes later.

Lloyd James whipped a corner into the front post, where it was met by Stockley who powered a header passed the helpless Sambridge.

And the striker doubled his tally soon after. Again a James corner proved the Swifts undoing as his driven cross found its way to Stockley on the penalty spot, and he coolly slotted home to make it 2-0 in the 62nd minute.

The Swifts pulled on back through Bantick in the 68th minute.

Good work from Luque on the left enabled him to send a floated cross to the back post, where it was met by substitute Lewis Godbold who headed the ball back across goal, and it was met by Bantick to tuck home and send the travelling 251 fans wild.

The visitors pushed for an equaliser and came close when Ryan Henshaw rose highest to meet Cawley’s cross, only for his header to be stopped by Pym.

It wasn’t to be for the swifts though.

McAlinden, on as a sub, put the game beyond doubt in the 86th minute.

After being played in behind the defence by Hiram Boateng, the striker sent a driven shot straight at Sambridge from a tight angle, and the keeper allowed the ball to sneak between his legs and over the line as he tried to rescue it.

Not disheartened by his error, the shot stopper pulled off a fantastic double save to deny Stockley his hat trick shortly after, and again denied the striker a third as he rushed off his line and made a challenge when Stockley was clean through on goal.

That was how it would end. A brave performance from the underdog was rewarded with a goal, but not the result.