HOLLAND FC joint-boss Jon Willis refused to be downbeat after his side’s dramatic 3-2 defeat at Little Oakley.

The sides met in a thrilling Thurlow Nunn League first division derby at the Memorial Ground on Tuesday night.

Goals from FC Clacton loanee Zach Smith-Walter and Steve Eaton put Holland in a commanding position, especially as Oakley had been reduced to ten men following a red card for Ryan Smart.

But Lewis Wood and Jordan Heath made it all-square before Harry Mann popped up with a late winner for the Acorns.

Willis admitted it was a bitter pill to swallow but felt there were plenty of positives for his young side.

“I was so proud of the way the boys played in the first half,” he said.

“It was a great reaction to recent results and performances and the best football since I’ve been here – easily.

“There were lots of positives.

“Zach was excellent and so was Sonny (Bastone), who was as good as I’ve seen playing in that number ten role. It’s amazing to think he’s only 17.

“He was outstanding – crazily good - and easily the best player on the pitch in the first half. He ran Oakley ragged.

“But when we tired after the break, we started taking too many touches and didn’t get the ball wide quick enough.

“We lost our discipline a bit.”

Willis felt Wood’s headed goal just before half-time swung the pendulum Oakley’s way.

“It was the game-changer and stemmed from a lack of communication between two of our players.

“It gave them a free header and consequently made their half-time team talk easy, because they knew how important the goal was.

“We could have gone in 3-0 ahead, but instead it was 2-1. That made it a different game.

“We’ve got to be better than we were in the second half but tiredness kicked in.

“We could have stretched them with ten men but just didn’t have quite enough to go and win the game.

“We couldn’t dominate like we had early on and I don’t remember us having a good spell.

“Oakley were smart and made life difficult for us, taking the brave decision to put two up front.

“Maybe them having a player sent off was a bad thing for us.

“It’s often the way and with ten men, being two-down, maybe they thought they had nothing to lose.

“We’ll play worse than that and win but we’ve got to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”