Brackley 'emotionally drained' after play-off disappointment
The Saints were competing in the post-season action for a third year in a row, albeit under unusual circumstances as their eliminator against Gateshead on Sunday was played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But, for the second time in the space of a year, Brackley’s hopes were ended in a penalty shoot-out.
The game itself had ended 1-1 after 90 minutes with both goals coming in first-half stoppage-time with Shane Byrne’s incredible effort from inside his own half coming immediately after Jake Cooper had given Gateshead the lead.
In a marathon shoot-out, Brackley had a kick to win it but Lorrel Smith saw his effort saved by Bradley James who went on to be Gateshead’s hero as his decisive stop from Ellis Myles earned a 6-5 success and a semi-final trip to Boston United next weekend.
And it simply left Wilkin deflated.
“It’s disappointing,” the Brackley boss said.
“The lads have given another fantastic effort on the day and through the course of the season and we are frustrated again.
“What makes it worse is that we have had a shot to win it again and not taken it.
“You are always wary about the lottery of penalties but we also have to look at it and give Gateshead great credit because they moved the ball better in the second half and asked more questions of us.
“Two teams came out and played and went toe-to-toe and unfortunately, it’s not quite happened for us.
“There were some good performances out there and there were some performances where I’d expect a bit more from certain players.
“We always knew Gateshead would be difficult to break down and that proved to be the case.
“We started the game very well but when you don’t crystalise that with a goal, it can come back “They have some terrific players and to come here and do what they have done, they deserve a lot of credit for it and we wish them well at Boston United.
“I look at us as a group and over the course of the season our discipline and goals against record has been very good.
“This is the third season we have made the play-offs and to keep doing it and showing that desire, emotionally it’s quite draining and it’s tough for the players.
“We have some tremendous characters in the group and we will get together again and dust ourselves down from this and hopefully we will resume next season.”
Wilkin reserved a word of praise for Byrne’s spectacular strike, which came after Lee Ndlovu had rolled the ball back to the midfielder from the kick-off after Gateshead had opened the scoring.
“It was just a fantastic goal, especially in that moment,” Wilkin added.
“You just have to take your hat off to a moment like that. It was quick thinking and great execution and to level it up as quickly as we did, it was perfect.”