Dean Thomas chose to pay tribute to his Kettering Town players after their season ended in play-off heartbreak.
The Poppies looked to be heading towards promotion to the Calor League Premier Division after they stormed into a 2-0 first-half lead against Slough Town in front of over 2,300 fans at Latimer Park.
But Kettering were stunned after the break as the Rebels tore into their hosts and scored three goals in 20 minutes to turn the game on its head and seal a 3-2 success.
The devastation was there for all to see as the Poppies were unable to finish the job after an incredible run of form that had seen them move into the Division One Central play-off places.
But they will be playing their football at that level again next season and boss Thomas believes they can learn from the disappointment and “come back fighting”.
The Poppies boss said: “I think we have had a great season.
“It shouldn’t be hinging on one game but it did. All I can do is pay homage and give credit to the players because they have been fantastic.
“It would be unfair for me now to start judging people and talking about where it went wrong. We were in a great position, we should have taken full advantage of it but we didn’t.
“We will learn from what happened and come back fighting.
“People will be downhearted and disappointed that we haven’t achieved our target. But that target wasn’t even there seven or eight months ago.
“The players and the whole football club deserve credit. We have seen some fantastic crowds and that shows the energy and enthusiasm and it shows how keen people around here are to have a football club.
“We delivered up until today. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out for us but I am proud of the players and we can look forward to next season.”
Don’t miss more reaction and pictures from the Poppies’ play-off final defeat in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph