St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke was left with a strong feeling of pride following the club’s Southern League Premier Division climax.
The Saints chief was pleased with the display of his third-bottom side as they were beaten 2-0 by champions Hereford in their final fixture of a tough campaign.
And Marheineke also spoke of his admiration for a hardy team of volunteers who worked from 7am to ensure a sodden ProEdge Westwood Road surface was fit for play.
He said: “We were beaten by the better side and that’s hardly surprising when a third-bottom team is going up against the runaway champions.
“But we were really competitive for most of the game until starting to look tired towards the end – and again that’s no shock given the amount of football we’ve had to cram into the last few weeks.
“The supporters can be proud of the shift the players put in and I’m certainly very proud of the people who gave up their morning to get water off the pitch and ensure the game went ahead.
“It’s been a difficult season and a frustrating one, but staying at Step 3 is a success for us. We all know we’re punching above our weight and things such as our facilities and budget also make it difficult for us to recruit.
“But we’ll be back next season – hopefully better, hopefully stronger, but definitely raring to go.”
Table-topping Hereford, who finished the season with a staggering 80 more points than struggling Saints, hit the front just after the half-hour mark.
Dara O’Shea pounced on a rebound after Saints goalkeeper Tim Trebes had brilliantly tipped a Pablo Haysham header onto the bar.
The hosts failed to record a shot on target in the opening period, but Danny Kelly rectified that 20 seconds after the restart.
Marheineke’s side posed a threat again when Ollie Snaith was just unable to force the ball home after Peter Clark returned a deep Ben Baker delivery to the danger area.
But Saints were undone by a quick break which stemmed from their own attacking free-kick midway through the half.
O’Shea burst clear before being pulled down inside the box by Luke Warner-Eley with substitute John Mills making no mistake from the spot.
Hereford celebrated a season to savour with a travelling army of around 500 fans, while Saints also earned a standing ovation from the home faithful.