Kidderminster Harriers have vowed to return stronger next season after the shock of losing to Chorley at Aggborough in the semi-finals of the National League North play-offs.
Harriers, relegated from the National League in 2016, have looked on course for a quick return all season.
They eventually missed out on automatic promotion, coming second to AFC Fylde.
But, after winning 1-0 at Chorley in the semi-final first leg, they were beaten 2-0 in the second leg.
After going 1-0 down early on, in front of their first 3,000-plus crowd of the season, Harriers’ fate was sealed by a 92nd-minute injury-time winner from Chorley’s Adam Roscoe – only their second defeat in 16 home games.
Having twice had efforts cleared off the line and twice hit the woodwork over the course of the two ties, Harriers did not get the breaks against a Chorley side who actually finished outside the play-off zone but replaced Darlington, who were unable to participate.
“Two mistakes have cost us,” Kidderminster manager John Eustace told BBC Hereford & Worcester. “But overall the club should feel very proud of their efforts this year.”
Harriers opted to stay full-time after their 33-year stay in English football’s top five divisions came to an end.
Having failed to make it straight back up, Harriers captain Keith Lowe wants the pain of their play-off defeat has to be used as a motivation tool next season.
“We must take everything that’s happened into next year,” he said. “We have to remember how low we feel now going into every game.
“Hopefully everybody will have extra knowledge. I’ve learnt a lot going to places that don’t really inspire you,” added the ex-Wolves, Cheltenham, Port Vale, Hereford and York defender.
“It’s a very quiet dressing room. You can’t quite find the words what to say to the lads to get their heads up. It’s been a long, hard season and for it to come to an end like that is hard to take.
“It’s been a good season, playing a good brand of football but we just couldn’t take it over the line. To not score at home is very unlike us.
“But every game is tough in this league. You have no divine right to win any game of football. If you don’t work harder than the man you’re up against, you’re going to be in for a long afternoon.”