Macclesfield Town youth boss Paul Maguire was glad to avoid “a cricket score” after their strike-hit side were thrashed 4-0 and knocked out of the FA Cup by seventh-tier side Kingstonian.
The Silkmen fielded six youth team players and five loanees as the first team continued a strike over unpaid salaries.
The hosts were outplayed by the Isthmian Premier Division side as home fans staged protests against the club’s owners.
Dan Hector and Louie Theophanous put the K’s 2-0 up within 11 minutes before Dan Bennett and Theophanous’s second completed the rout.
“We didn’t want it to be a cricket score today because I don’t think we would have deserved that,” Maguire told BBC Radio Manchester.
“In the first 10 minutes, we were rabbits in the headlights. Six were making their senior debut. They’re forgiven for being a bit nervous.
“By the time they got through that first 10 or 15 minutes, they grew into the game and looked quite competent.”
Hector opened the scoring after latching on to a long ball forward to fire past Owen Evans, before setting up striker Theophanous to double the lead.
Bennett tapped in to make it 3-0 two minutes after the break after a Theophanous shot hit the post and the latter then netted his second after rounding Evans, putting Kingstonian into the second round for the first time since 2000-01.
Strikes and protests at Moss Rose
Macclesfield confirmed the tie would go ahead on Saturday after first-team players announced their intention to go on strike.
The club’s place in the competition for both this season and 2020-21 would have been at stake had the game been called off, and Silkmen boss Daryl McMahon was forced to name an inexperienced side – handing senior debuts to six players as he made eight changes to his starting XI.
Several supporters boycotted the tie and protested against owner Amar Alkadhi outside Moss Rose, with 255 Kingstonian fans making up more than a quarter of the total attendance.
The travelling supporters also joining in chants aimed at Alkadhi which were started by Macclesfield fans who did go through the turnstiles.
“It’s been a tough week,” boss Daryl McMahon said.
“Everyone knows what’s been happening, but all I can do is focus on the pitch and try to get a team out to try to win games. These lads have acquitted themselves well, I’m really proud of them.
“It was a great experience for these lads, it was the youngest side we’ve ever had in a game, I think the oldest player was 21, most were about 16. I thought some showed real promise, we’d like to look and see if we can develop them.”
The strike is the latest move taken by players against the League Two club.
Macclesfield have previously been taken to court by players over unpaid wages and, in May, under then-manager Sol Campbell, they considered boycotting the final match of last season for similar reasons.
Local businessman Joe Sealey, the son of former Manchester United goalkeeper Les, told BBC Radio Manchester on Friday he had put an official offer in to buy the financially-beleaguered Silkmen.
Macclesfield offered little going forward as they were eliminated at the first round stage of the FA Cup for the third consecutive season, with Kingstonian taking £36,000 in prize money for progressing.
“We didn’t know if the game was even going to be played, and even when it was established we would be playing, was it going to be their established team?” said Kingstonian boss Hayden Bird.
“We had to prepare for two very different scenarios but the players got the job done. We were worthy winners.
“When you have moments like this you want more, hopefully we’ll get a favourable draw and can continue to look forward to playing in the FA Cup.
“It’s one of my best days as a manager, we’ve come to a Football League club and won convincingly. You have to enjoy these moments and I definitely will be.”