FC United of Manchester fell short in the play-offs for the fourth season in a row on Tuesday night as once again promotion eluded them despite a promising campaign.
The Red Rebels had pushed Chorley all the way in the league and it went down to the wire in the final round of fixtures, but Chorley edged out FC United to win the league by just one point and go up as champions. It meant that Karl Marginson's side would have to contend with the play-offs yet again, but they would be heavy favourites this time round.
A superb second half to the season had seen FC win 16 of their last 18 league games and they had finished 16 points ahead of semi-final opponents Ashton United. The semi-final's at this level are just one game, and it took place at Bury's Gigg Lane stadium which hosts the majority of FC United's games.
3000 fans packed into the stadium and created yet another wonderful atmosphere which is apparent at all of the club's games home and away. After a tight half the sides went into the break having failed to break the deadlock. In the 59th minute after a mazy run from Dave Birch the FC midfielder was brought down in the box. This allowed FC stalwart Jerome Wright to step up and convert the resulting penalty sending the fans into raptures.
The game looked to be comfortably in United's hands and Ashton didn't really offer too much going forward, that was until the 90th minute. Dale Johnson was put through on goal and slotted in an equaliser to send the match into extra-time.
Again it was United who dominated proceedings and looked the more likely to score but had been weakened due to the injuries of Jerome Wright, Tom Greaves and Mike Norton. The match was heading for penalties when Ashton United won a corner, and then another. For the first time in the game, Gigg Lane was silent and the fans watched on hoping the ball could be kept out. It wasn't to be as Jack Higgins fired in the winner, and the home fans were in disbelief once again. For the fourth straight year they had failed to negotiate the play-offs.
That will be the last game that FC United will play at Gigg Lane as next season they will be playing their brand of 'Punk football' at their new stadium; Broadhurst Park. That will be a special moment for a special club who are destined to progress way beyond this stage.
Central defenders Tom Davies and Charlie Raglan will depart to Fleetwood Town and Chesterfield respectively and they won't look out of place at those clubs. Two imposing, defenders who are fantastic at spraying the ball across the park.
FC United of Manchester were only established in 2005 following Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United. Whilst many fans still support both clubs, the hatred for Glazer is still very much present. Supporting FC United offers a very different perspective on the game than supporting Manchester United. The fan run club is unique, special and makes everyone feel a part of something spectacular.
The fans vote on season tickets, stadium name, new club strips and many other things. Next season, despite having to play at this level once again, will make the club stronger. They will finally have a place to call home, and the 5,500 capacity Broadhurst Park stadium will be a special place to be. For the sake of the fans though they'll need to go up as champions next season because the hearts can't take another play-off campaign.