BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Alex Pearce admitted Millwall’s FA Cup exit was a tough one to take – but emphasised the need to take the plusses from coming so close to a semi-final.
The centre-back opened the scoring for the Lions on Sunday at The Den with Aiden O’Brien’s close-range finish seemingly securing another day trip to Wembley.
But Jurgen Locadia cut the deficit in the 88th minute before Millwall goalkeeper David Martin horribly misjudged Solly March’s free-kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time – turning the ball into his own net.
Brighton went on to win 5-4 on penalties.
Asked about seeing an FA Cup semi-final wrenched from their grasp, Pearce said: “It’s tough, yeah. At full-time the manager said: ‘look how far you’ve come – against a Premier League side’. He gave us a real gee-up and I thought we went out in that first period of extra time and we were solid.
“We quickly forgot about it [the last-gasp leveller]. Initially yeah, there is disappointment. But in a game like that, there is no time to feel sorry for yourselves and the manager pointed that out.
“I don’t think we did feel sorry for ourselves. We reacted really well and could’ve gone on and won it in extra-time – it’s unfortunate we didn’t.
“When it goes to penalties, it is a lottery. It’s anyone’s game then and unfortunately we came out the wrong side.”
Millwall seemed to be comfortable until Locadia’s strike.
“It felt that way on the pitch when we went 2-0 up,” said the on-loan Derby defender. “We always knew we’d have to defend at the end. We were comfortably going to see it out. It’s just unfortunate what has happened.
“We’ll take the positives into the last nine games. We’ve got five of those at home. We need to make this place a fortress and make sure no team has an easy game, like Sunday.
“They had more of the play and more of the possession – they are a Premier League side, you expect that. But we kept our shape really well, that was a feature of our play.
“We can be proud of ourselves. It was an unlucky way to lose. Sometimes that happens.”
PICTURES BY BRIAN TONKS