Andy Peaks was left “devastated” after AFC Rushden & Diamonds suffered more play-off agony last night (Tuesday).
Nearly a year on from a Southern League Division One Central play-off final loss, Diamonds went down 1-0 at Witton Albion in the semi-final of the extended season in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South.
Rob Hopley’s second-half goal proved to be enough to send the runners-up into a home final with Spalding United on Saturday while Diamonds’ hopes were all-but ended when Dan Quigley was sent-off for an ugly over-the-top challenge on Steve Tames.
And while Peaks was disappointed to see his team’s season ended, he admitted he was proud of their efforts on the night and throughout the season.
The Diamonds boss said: “I’m devastated because we have worked hard to get to the play-offs and to get eliminated at this stage is heartbreaking. If I didn’t feel gutted, I wouldn’t be doing the job.
“I thought we started well in the first 10 minutes but they grew in confidence and before half-time they were definitely dominating and we were hanging on and there were a couple of brilliant saves from Matt Finlay to keep us in it.
“When you play a team of this calibre, they are always going to have spells but the fact we rode our luck and got some blocks in made me believe we would get some chances.
“We changed it around a little bit and I thought we played pretty well in the second half.
“But over the 90 minutes, I don’t think we can disagree with the result if I am being honest.
“I knew we would have to be clinical if we got chances but we didn’t get many and we needed key decisions to go our way and I don’t think we got a lot of help with that.
“But the other disappointment for me as set-piece delivery. It wasn’t good enough and they have actually scored the goal from our corner.
“Overall, after going down to 10 men against a really good team we still had them panicking towards the end and that says a lot about our players.
“I am disappointed, of course, but I am proud of what we have achieved over the course of the season.”
As far as Quigley’s red card was concerned, Peaks admitted he would need to see it again before making a full judgement,
“My first thoughts were that he took the ball but I won’t say too much until I have seen it,” he added.
“It didn’t take a lot for the referee to get his card out.
“Dan is disappointed, if it was a red card it was a red card but I couldn’t tell in real time.”