Steve King, the Macclesfield manager, has challenged his players to finish the job they signed up for – returning the club to League Two at the first time of asking – after begrudgingly going out of the world's oldest cup competition.
King's men, assembled hastily in the summer in preparation for a first season outside the Football League in 15 years, etched their names in club folklore by progressing further than any of their predecessors but after Jordi Gómez's early penalty confirmed elimination, thoughts switched to the primary goal of promotion. And that means this set of FA Cup heroes, including Matthew Barnes-Homer, the Blue Square Bet Premier's second top scorer, will remain at Moss Rose beyond this month's transfer window.
Barnes-Homer, whose 20 goals this season follow similarly productive spells with Luton and Kidderminster, has attracted attention with his Cup exploits in much the same way Jamie Vardy did with Fleetwood 12 months ago. Fleetwood resisted the temptation to sell, despite substantial bids, until the title was secured, and Vardy later joined Leicester for a seven-figure sum. Macclesfield's evaluation of the potential of both league finishing position and Barnes-Homer's transfer value are more modest but King said: "I have told people like Barnes they will have to see out the season with us because they started something here – we gave them the platform to do what they've done. He won't be going anywhere soon. We will offer him a new deal but maybe someone bigger will come knocking for him."
Barnes-Homer, who at 27 already has 15 clubs behind him, arrived from Sweden's Ostersunds FK as part of a total revamp of the Macclesfield squad six months ago. With so many new faces, results, perhaps understandably, have been inconsistent but despite being 10th, they are renowned as the best passing team in the division and have beaten both Grimsby and Wrexham, leaders and second respectively.
"If we don't make the play-offs with this group I will be very disappointed because the opportunity is there for us. We have beaten all of the top teams in our division barring one or two. It has just been the consistency against the bottom sides that has let us down," said King.
"How we played against a Premier League team this weekend will have no bearing on where we finish but I am disappointed not to get a replay at the very least because I know we deserved something from the game. People were in tears in the dressing room. This was a chance missed and Wigan were very lucky to come away with the win."
King's main beef was with the 39th-minute decision by the referee, Roger East, to award a corner rather than penalty when Roman Golobart bumped Waide Fairhurst in the area. According to the Macclesfield midfielder Sam Wedgbury, it was symptomatic of the difference in status between the clubs. "You watch the big teams on TV and, when they play the minnows, they always seem to get the rub of the green," Wedgbury said. "Look at Mansfield when they played Liverpool and Luis Suárez handballed it into the net. If that was a Mansfield player it would probably have been seen."
As for Wigan, given their precarious league position, a Cup run might have been thought an unwanted distraction but their manager, Roberto Martínez, who handed a debut to gigantic on-loan Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Joel, said said: "It is a not a distraction at all. We have 24 players in our squad and making changes doesn't mean we are not taking it seriously. For us it's the opposite. Over the past three years we have tried to get together a group of players all of whom, when they get on the pitch, are competitive – something that we couldn't previously do. The Cup games give players a chance to prove they have the ability to play every week. The Premier League for us is like playing the FA Cup final every weekend and as a football club we can't lose that status."
Man of the match Sam Wedgbury (Macclesfield Town)