Despite a spirited second-half fightback at home to Tunbridge Wells, Pagham exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle after Tunbridge Wells proved too strong on the day.
Pagham’s third keeper in three games, former Burgess Hill and England under-18s stopper Tom Betts, had a debut he won’t forget as the visitors laid siege to his goal almost from the off.
Within the first ten minutes, Tunbridge Wells could have been three up, and it wasn’t until the quarter-hour mark that a real chance for Pagham emerged. A free-kick for a push by Wells captain Jason Bourne was struck straight at keeper Chris Oladogba.
A couple of minutes later, the visitors took the lead, Josh Sandford giving Betts no chance.
Sniffing the chance of a rout, the visitors stepped up a gear and a booking for Pagham’s Joe Briggs for a two-footed tackle only added to the Lions’ woes.
Betts had to be at his best just before the half-hour as the ball was hacked off the line, pinged back in and Betts saved.
Tunbridge Wells’ second goal on 28 minutes came when Jack Harris struck a shot long and low past a diving Betts. It was 3-0 a few minutes later, with Carl Cornell cracking the ball in from the right.
The Lions looked bloodied but unbowed as a free-kick on the left gave them a glimmer of hope. But the chance went begging, and the half ended with Tunbridge Wells looking well in control.
Four minutes into the second half, Scott Murfin struck a powerful shot at Oladogba.
Tunbridge Wells were starting to leave gaps and Ryan Cox was able to unleash a header at Oladogba unchallenged. Jack Harris went raiding for Wells, but after a blistering run into the area his final shot was poor.
James Ford marked his return to the Lions side with a booking.
Pagham held it together, a good move almost allowing Cox to open his account for the season.
Pagham’s Russell Hardwell returned from injury to replace Ford just after the hour as the Lions held on.
Oladogba spilled the ball as Pagham kept up the pressure, rewarded with a strike from Howard Neighbour just after the hour.
Tunbridge Wells sub Brett Ince had been on for no more than a minute when he struck a shot which Betts did well to save.
On 73 minutes, Pagham were awarded a penalty that Neighbour put away with force.
Thoughts of whether the Lions could pull off a draw were crushed on 78 minutes as Harris’ long-range screamer smacked into the back of the net to restore the two-goal advantage.
Oladogba tipped over a Pagham shot on 84 minutes, with the Lions refusing to lie down and die.
PAGHAM: Betts, Buckland, Ford (Hardwell 63), Pearce, Hawker, Bradshaw, Briggs (Hamilton 87), French, Neighbour, S Murfin, Cox. Subs: Jefkins, N Murfin, J Binfield.