Mark Starmer was full of pride after AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ FA Cup adventure was finally ended by Skrill South side Dover Athletic.
Diamonds – the last remaining ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League side left in the third qualifying round – were backed by around 300 supporters on the Kent coast.
And they gave the hosts a few scares as Alfie Taylor brought his team level during the first half after Dover had taken the lead.
But a mistake from goalkeeper Tom Cross allowed the hosts to regain the lead in the first minute of the second half and they also missed a penalty before rounding off a 3-1 victory with 15 minutes to go.
However, Diamonds gave a fine account of themselves and it left Starmer - who was under the weather with a cold - bursting with pride.
“We started really brightly and had a couple of good chances but then they scored from a corner and then I was wondering how we would react,” the Diamonds boss said.
“But the character we showed was superb and we deserved to be level at half-time.
“We spoke at half-time about trying to keep it tight for a while but Tom has dropped a cross in the first minute of the half and it killed us. Goalkeepers make mistakes and that is football. No-one is being blamed from our point of view.
“I would say that 3-1 was probably about right at the end but we can be very proud of ourselves.
“When you play these games against sides from three levels higher, you do fear that you may be embarrassed. But that definitely wasn’t the case for us.
“I am very proud of the lads. They have had a great run in the competition and scored a lot of goals along the way.
“It was a bonus game for us because no-one expected us to beat Cambridge City but we did.
“We feel we have done ourselves and the UCL proud and now we have to make sure we take all of that into the league and FA Vase matches we have coming up.”
Starmer, meanwhile, paid tribute to the army of fans who made the long journey south to roar their team on.
“We had around 300 fans down there and the noise they made throughout was incredible,” he added.
“The scenes when Alfie scored will live with us for a long time. The support was superb as it is every week.”
It is back to reality for Starmer’s men this week when they return to UCL Premier Division action on Tuesday night against Peterborough Northern Star at the Dog & Duck.