At least it wasn’t penalties. For the third time in five years, Boston United’s promotion dreams ended with a heartbreaking, gutwrenching play-off semi-final second leg.
On a Church Road ground awash with amber and black and with the scent of flares hanging loosely in the air, North Ferriby overturned a 2-0 deficit to book their place in Saturday’s final, where they will face Fylde following their 2-1 aggregate success against Harrogate.
Five years to the day that the Pilgrims were knocked out by penalties on Guiseley, their season once again ended as plucky also-rans.
So close. So flipping damn close. But again, not quite.
Today’s defeat will sting for the team in amber and black, especially as most of the team were on the Jakemans Stadium turf 12 months ago as another penalty shoot-out saw Chorley progress at their expense.
The Boston camp have reasons to feel hard done by. They can point to the penalty decision which allowed Ferriby to force their way back into the tie after just 11 minutes.
They could argue that Tom Denton, who won that spot kick, should not have been playing after a couple of unpunished wild elbows in the first leg.
And, of course, the rules state that play should have been stopped in the build up to the hosts’ third due to Nat Brown’s head injury.
But in the cold light of day, the fact of the matter was that Boston crossed the Humber with a 2-0 advantage and let that slip, conceding three while Ferriby defended exceptionally.
Fabian Spiess had conceded just one goal in the previous five games, but within 16 minutes Ferriby had scored twice to level the tie at 2-2 as they began like a side with a point to prove and the Pilgrims looked very much like a team with everything to lose.
There was a whiff of controversy around the first, the Villagers awarded a penalty after Denton and Carl Piergianni - taking to the pitch with a protective mask after breaking his nose in Wednesday’s first leg - fell to the floor in a tangled heap.
Although Denton’s arm was wrapped around the Boston defender’s shoulder, referee Andrew Miller believed the Boston man was the main perpetrator and pointed to the spot.
Liam King stepped up to send Spiess the wrong way and halve the advantage with just 11 minutes gone.
Five minutes later Denton outjumped the United defence to head home Adam Bolder’s corner. Suddenly the tie was anyone’s again.
Ferriby led the tie for the first time 10 minutes after the break.
Seconds after Danny Hone saw an effort ruled out for offside Danny Clarke found the back of the net and United had some work to do.
The Pilgrims were left pointing to Brown, the defender left in a heap clutching his head in the builld-up to the goal. But again the decision lay with Miller, who allowed play to continue.
Ferriby began the first half in combative mood as Bolder saw an effort hacked off the line by Piergianni, Clarke hooked one wide and Spiess got down well to palm away Josh Wilde’s free kick.
The United keeper then made a vital save to parry Denton’s header shortly after Ferriby scored their second, which gave the away side some added impetus.
Southwell’s dogged determination saw him battle his way into the box but Adam Nicklin denied him with a superb save, Zak Mills’ curler suffering the same fate.
Boston had the better of the second half’s opening exchanges but a lack of composure saw Southwell’s free kick fly well over the bar, while Nicklin was down quickly to palm Mills’ effort wide.
Nicklin also held onto Garner’s drive while Brown volleyed wide of the mark.
But for all United’s second half endeavour, it was Ferriby who scored the vital goal.
Last year’s FA Trophy winners now look forward to another final, while the Pilgrims are stuck reading from the same old frustrating script.
FERRIBY: Nicklin, Topliss, Hone, Palmer, Wilde, Brooksby (Emerton 87), Bolder (Fry 70), Clarke, King, Bateson, Denton; Subs (not used): Kendall, Gray, Middleton.
Spiess, Mills, Brown, Piergianni, McEvoy, Garner, Roberts (Burgess 60), Hilliard, Felix (M. Jones 60), Southwell, Rollins; Subs (not used): Marrs, Lavelle-Moore, Johnson.
Ref: Andrew Miller.