PHIL Parkinson pulled no punches and issued a heartfelt apology after Altrincham blew the chance of a £60,000 pay day with an abject Emirates FA Cup exit at The J.Davidson Stadium on Tuesday night.

Alty looked to have done the hard part after storming back with two late goals to force a 2-2 first round draw at Gateshead a week last Saturday, with Charlton Athletic and the live TV cameras awaiting the eventual winners in the next round.

But the replay went inexplicably and alarmingly wrong as they twice found themselves trailing before falling behind for a decisive third time seconds from the end, as Gateshead helped themselves to the plum second round home tie with a 3-2 win.

“They were the better team over both games and thoroughly deserved their victory,” said a crestfallen Robins boss Parkinson.

“Our ball retention, work rate and desire to win were all nowhere near the level we set and expect, and I can only apologise to everyone.

“It wasn’t there, and that has to come down to me.

“I pick the team, motivate them and send them out on the pitch, and I can only think I did something wrong, because that was not the Altrincham that has made people want to flood through the gates. It was a mile off.

“I have got to take the brunt of the criticism, because I either picked the wrong team or said the wrong things before they went out.

“We have had some big highs this season, but that is an all-time low.

“It is as low as we can get, given what was at stake, and I apologise to the fans, the board and everyone who goes to so much effort to get these games on.

‘It is a real kick in the teeth for them, and I can only promise we will endeavour to put things right and get back to where we should be.

‘We will take our medicine and digest what has happened, but we won’t let it derail our season.

“This is a team of winners, which is why we are so bitterly disappointed, but we will be upbeat again by the end of the week and ready to go again at Weymouth on Saturday.”