LOSING on penalties at a Premiership club is certainly no disgrace.
But Accrington Stanley's shoot-out defeat in the Carling Cup second round at under-strength Watford on Tuesday ended with controversy for manager John Coleman and some of the Reds' stars.
For Stanley goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin it was a bitter-sweet night.
The former Liverpool youth player was the Stanley hero after his two superb extra time saves which took the Reds into sudden death against the top flight new boys.
However, Coleman has used the tactic before of replacing the keepers on 119 minutes for penalties with a shell-shocked Dunbavin coming off and a somewhat apologetic Rob Elliot coming on for his first appearance of the League Two season.
Charlton loanee Elliot does have a good history of penalty saves from last season but all but one of the Hornets penalties were well-taken and any keeper would have struggled to get near them in the tense finale.
"I have done it before and would do it again," said Coleman. "I did it at Bournemouth (Jon Kennedy coming on for Jamie Speare in the FA Cup clash) and we won. I stand by what I have done."
And Coleman ended up furious with his captain, Peter Cavanagh, and then his players after they changed the order of the penalty takers which the management had given them.
The first five all scored for both teams - Gary Roberts, Rommy Boco, Ian Craney, Andy Todd and Andy Procter holding their nerve for the Reds.
Then Cavanagh was in despair as the Hornets young keeper Richard Lee dived to his left and saved his spot kick, leaving the skipper walking back to the centre circle with his shirt over his head.
The captain, however, was given a saving grace when Watford's right back James Chambers hit the underside of the crossbar and kept it at 5-5.
Paul Mullin, so many times the Stanley hero over the last seven years, volunteered to take the next one but the striker hit his penalty the same way as Cavanagh - and the keeper was there again. Hornets young winger Anthony McNamee then came up with the winning spot kick which stopped the crowd's nailbiting and prompted Coleman's fury.
"Two bad penalties have cost us. The first is a shocking penalty - and you expect better from your captain and vice captain," fumed the boss.
"Cav should have done better when there is so much at stake. I have criticised him in the dressing room so I am not talking out of turn. He was totally reliant on the keeper going the wrong way and he should have just hit it as at least there is always a chance. And then the lads have changed their order off their own back which is really annoying.
"We gave them an order for a purpose and we believe the ones we picked would have seen us through.
"We told them the first five, which they stuck to, and the sixth was Peter Cavanagh. The seventh was meant to be Leam Richardson but for some reason Paul Mullin took it. He said Paul fancied it. We know enough about the players and they should do what we ask."
With the fall-out from the penalties still going on, Coleman was also upset his side hadn't seen off Watford in normal time especially as they rested all their big guns.
"No disrespect to Watford, but it was tantamount to their reserves and we should score against Watford reserves. I am disappointed we didn't win over 90 minutes.
"A lot of their players won't have played competitive football for a long time and our team are used to playing week in week out. We have gone home with nothing and that is hard."
Stanley stuck with the side which beat Boston on Saturday while Watford changed all the 11 which drew with Aston Villa in the Premiership at the weekend.
"I wanted to see what my youngsters were all about," said Hornets boss Aidy Boothroyd. "Some of them were excellent. I always thought we had enough in our team to go on and win but Accrington were resolute and they made a game of it."
The Reds certainly did with plenty of hardy fans making the trip down south - and most getting value for money despite the penalty woe and the 4am return to Accrington.
Keeper Dunbavin was under pressure straight away as Watford put a lot of balls into the box and forced a number of corners but the goalie, who probably had more to do in the first 30 minutes than the last two league games, stayed calm and assured and he and his defence soaked up the early pressure easily.
And the Reds should have taken a shock lead when an inswinging Ian Craney corner on 20 minutes curled straight into the net and the home fans behind the goal were stunned - but then relieved as the referee blew for what was a harsh foul by Mullin on Lee.
Gary Roberts was always a threat going forward and caused problems for the defence before the break while Andy Todd made some charging runs.
But Watford's nippy young wingers McNamee and Albert Jarrett also caused problems with both testing Dunbavin a couple of times in the first half and Jarrett hitting the woodwork on the back of the goal on the stroke of half time.
Tall striker Tamas Priskin also was also a danger but centre half Phil Edwards managed to have another superb game, stifling his threat.
In the second half, the game could have gone either way with Jarrett continuing to be an influence while Stanley striker Roberts turned and placed a shot from the edge of the area on 51 minutes which keeper Lee must have seen late but he dived low to deprive him.
Craney had a shot blocked while Jarrett surged past Richardson but his strike was somehow held onto by Dunbavin.
Rommy Boco came on just after the hour and was always looking to use his trickery to create an opening and the pressure was on Watford with their fans getting on their backs.
And it looked like the Benin international would be the jubilant winner for Stanley when he got the ball with four minutes of normal time remaining and lashed it goalwards but the keeper did enough to push it around the post.
The extra time was more of the same with Watford charging down the wings and the Reds reading the situations well while Roberts and Boco continued to be thwarted by the Watford back line.
Then, on 128 minutes, it looked like the Premiership side had finally broken through when McNamee blasted a strike goalwards which Dunbavin magnificently pushed out and then he denied Priskin in a suberb double save.
It was his last action, as he was then subbed for the penalty shoot-out. Stanley's first five spot kicks were perfect while Elliot came close to keeping out captain Matthew Spring's opening penalty.
But then Cavanagh and Mullin were denied and youngster McNamee finished the League Two side off.
"Up until the penalties, the only fault I could find with my side is that we didn't score. The keeper did well and Phil Edwards was outstanding. It is just so hard to go home with nothing," added Coleman.