Nigel Clough last night insisted he was proud of his United team despite watching their hopes of reaching the Championship evaporate following a remarkable match at Swindon Town.
And the visitors’ frustration was compounded by confirmation that John Brayford could be set to miss the start of next season due to a potentially serious knee injury.
United and Swindon scored five goals apiece during the decisive second leg of their play-off semi-final.
Clough, whose side ultimately slipped to a 7-6 aggregate defeat, said: “We’ve told the lads we’re proud of their efforts.
“The co-chairman has come into the dressing room to say exactly the same thing.
“Gary Crosby, our assistant manager, was talking before hand about the fact you need to show courage, different types of courage, in football. Our boys, although we’ve not gone through, have shown plenty out there.
“We’re proud of them for that and we hope, despite the fact we’ve not got to where we want to be this season, the fans are too.”
Clough cited Brayford’s absence as a major factor behind a poor start which saw United concede three goals in the opening 20 minutes.
However, they dragged themselves off the canvas with late strikes from Matt Done and Che Adams ensuring the highest scoring contest in modern play-off history went down to the wire.
Clough congratulated Swindon on their victory but said: “We know we’ve conceded some soft goals, that needs looking at, but I don’t think the lads deserved that with what they put in out there.”