“THAT’S the beauty of the competition, always something can happen. We wanted to go further but we are out.”

No, not the post-match words of Steve Ball after Colchester United’s demise at the hands of non-league Marine but those of Mauricio Pochettino, following the U’s famous Carabao Cup win over his Spurs side at the same venue little more than 12 months earlier.

It is a stark illustration of the ups and downs of sport and specifically, knockout football.

As glorious and memorable as Colchester’s superb cup wins over Spurs and Crystal Palace were last season, their miserable FA Cup defeat to eighth-tier outfit Marine was as desperate in equal measure.

Indeed, the U’s had celebrated those cup triumphs with just as much enthusiasm as the Marine players and staff rejoiced their victory at the JobServe Community Stadium, on Saturday night.

And rightly so.

It is probably of little consolation to Colchester, whose players will report for training today still hurting from their shock first-round exit to a team lying in a mid-table position, in Northern Premier League Division One North West.

There were no excuses and none were offered – the U’s produced a desperately disappointing performance where they significantly under-performed all over the pitch.

“Whatever level you play, if you don’t play at the level you can you’re going to get hurt and we’ve been hurt today,” said a crestfallen Ball, after the U’s boss watched his side crash out.

However, Ball and his players might take solace from the fact that there is actually a neat symmetry about Colchester’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Marine and their shock defeat against another non-league side, Oxford City, in 2017.

Back then, the U’s had gone into their FA Cup first-round tie in confident mood on the back of a 3-1 home victory in League Two.

And they also had a game against Southend United in the EFL Trophy on the following Tuesday as an opportunity to respond immediately to the disappointment.

After Colchester’s defeat to Oxford City, they went on to win their next league game and take seven points from a possible nine, in their following three league matches.

Cup defeats happen, even to the best teams – that’s why the FA Cup is still such a popular and intriguing competition.

The key is how you respond to them.

It is essential that Colchester do not allow this hugely disappointing defeat to define their season, especially given their solid start to the League Two campaign where they have just won three of their last four matches.

In this, the 50th anniversary season of the U’s famous triumph over Leeds United, it would be hard in this of all campaigns to begrudge Marine their moment of glory.

But while Colchester must undoubtedly learn lessons from the defeat, it is how they react to the disappointment which is the most important thing now.