BROMSGROVE Sporting boss Paul Smith was full of praise for his side, despite falling at the penultimate hurdle of the FA Vase with a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Cleethorpes.
His team were arguably the better of the semi-final second leg teams, but a goal in under 60 seconds from Cleethorpes striker Gary King proved to be the decider.
Smith told the Advertiser: "I don't think we were at it first half. I don't know if it was nerves. But an FA Vase semi final is a tough one to play in.
"We were much better second half but just couldn't get that equaliser.
"I'm proud as punch for the players. Win, lose or draw today I did say that they've been brilliant so far, and I feel for them and the fans at the moment because both sets have been tremendous for us."
A cagey first half gave way to a much more dominant performance by Sporting in the second period.
"I just told them to relax [during half time]," Smith said. "I thought we were on edge and so hyped up in the first half that I don't think we're relaxed.
"We weren't playing in the final third often enough and I told them to get the ball into the final third a bit more and I think we did that in the second half.
"We didn't test the keeper as much as we should have, apart from a couple of Cowley free kicks, but these are a good side. I take nothing away from Cleethorpes, they're a good side and I hope they go on to win it.
"All season the players have been top class to this point and I feel for them at the moment as we've gone and beat four or five sides from higher levels and we didn't look out of place over the two legs.
"In my opinion I think we shaded the two legs, but it's how football works sometimes and we didn't quite get what we deserved. But Cleethorpes are a good side, I take my hat off to them and wish them all the best."
Sporting's attention now turns to Tuesday night's Midland League tie away at Racing Club Warwick.
Smith added: "I'm pleased we've got a league game on Tuesday so we can get back at it.
"It'll hurt the players now and tomorrow but we've got to make sure we pick them up and get them ready for Tuesday night when we go again."