Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola has refused to blame Saturday’s FA Cup exit solely on their injury crisis and admitted they ‘threw away the tie’ early in the second half.
The Hornets, who were missing six regular starters, held in-form visitors Herne Bay in the first half, but three goals at the start of the second half left them with too much to do.
The 5-2 result saw the Kent side pocket £4,500 in prize money and ease through to the third qualifying round where they will face Margate.
Horsham were without seven starters, that were ruled out through injury, along with goalkeeper Josh James being unavailable.
Darren Boswell, Jack Hartley and Lewis Hyde meanwhile were forced to play through the pain barrier as they played a 3-5-2 formation with striker Rob O’Toole in defence.
Di Paola said: “We did have injuries but you cannot just blame that, we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.
“The first goal was a mistake, the third goal was a mistake and the fourth goal was shocking as the marking was non-existent and you can’t blame injuries for that.
“It was disappointing for everyone associated with the club and a massive anticlimax. We had the Back of the Net boys down doing the radio stuff and it was a big day. At half-time we were well in the game, but we came out and did not put a challenge in and they scored a goal.
“The next 15 minutes we were all over the place and threw away the tie. We did have opportunities to get back into it, but their keeper made a good save and we should have had a penalty - another absolute banker, which was not given.
“That is the third one in a few games now, so it would be nice to get a referee decision as well at some point.
“We were short, lacking defenders and a number were walking wounded, which of course never helps. We just do not need so many things going against us on a bad day like that.
“We had Joe Keehan, Scott Kirkwood, Chris Breach, Alex Duncan, Asa Nicholson, Charlie Farmer, Tom Lawley and Josh James all out - if you write that team down into some form of shape it gives us a few options.
“Darren Boswell was carrying an injury as well and we had to take him off eventually, while Lewis Hyde is playing with half his leg hanging off.”
Early chances at either end saw both Jake Embery and Jake Hartley put free headers wide. Nassim Dukali then picked out Bradley Schafer, but his shot went just wide of Michael Hunter’s, who was in goal with Josh James unavailable, left-hand post.
The visitors took the lead on 21 minutes as Hartley was caught on the ball on the edge of his own area and Dukali shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Despite being second best, the home side were unfortunate not to draw level when O’Toole found Toby House, but Ben Hunter’s fingertips denied him.
Boswell forced another decent save, before Horsham levelled four minutes before half-time. Darren Budd’s blocked corner took a lucky deflection off O’Toole and was put back in to the far post where Metcalf’s low drive was turned in by Hyde for the equaliser.
And they could have led before the break as Metcalf just missed a Matt Axell free kick and the defender then saw his own set-piece hit the post.
Under a minute into the second half, Bay led again as Schafer’s shot flew past Michael Hunter. On 58 minutes, it was 3-2 as Michael Hunter pushed away Jack Steventon’s header, only for Embery to put away the loose ball. A minute later, Junior Akhionbare sidefooted home from the edge of the area.
O’Toole returned to his usual role and soon headed down a free kick for House to bring the score back to 4-2.
The pressure continued as a Budd free kick flashed across goal, an O’Toole shot brought unsuccessful appeals of handball and the striker then blazed over the bar with nine minutes left. But Bay made the game safe soon after as Ben Carlton put a first-time shot into the net for their fifth goal.
Horsham: Hunter, Hartley, Metcalf, O’Toole, Hyde, Axell, Thurgar, Budd, Oatway (Waller 78), Boswell (Newhouse 51), House. Unused: Duncan, Nicholson, Harris, McCarthy.