AFC Sudbury’s play-ers will leave for the summer break with manager Nicky Smith’s damning assessment ringing in their ears: “You shot yourselves in the foot”.
The Yellows complete their season at Grays Athletic on Saturday but had hoped that was not the end of the journey, with a play-off semi-final against Needham Market blown out of the water after conceding two late goals on Monday.
It left former Colchester United player Smith cutting a frustrated figure at the full-time whistle at King’s Marsh, which was far from the first time this season.
“We were on a good run but our inability to beat Waltham Forest, Cheshunt and Tilbury at home has cost us dear. We have only lost 10 games all season,” he said.
The point was no good to AFC, who needed a win to mathematically take their chances of securing a play-off spot, the target at the start of the season, down to the last day.
Asked why his side had been unable to kick the habit of conceding late, Smith said concentration levels among a young team were their Achilles heel. But did not agree bad discipline had anything to do with their season petering out.
“I think it is young lads switching off. We have let ourselves down, it has killed us. But it will be a big learning curve for the lads,” he said. “It has not necessarily been discipline. We were ill-disciplined really in the way we defended at times.”
But Smith says he will avoid the temptation to tamper too much with his side, who have nothing but pride to play for, at Grays.
“It is a bit of a non-event but we want to finish as high as we can. I will not go there and throw the towel in as I am not that way inclined,” he said.
“We will keep going, have a real go, try to get a result and then re-build for the summer.”
But there is reason for cheer among Sudbury fans, despite the way Monday’s sickening draw came about. Michael Shinn, so influential in midfield since joining the club, has signed a new deal for next year, adding to two other high profile players.
Smith is also in talks with other members of his side to enable him to have a settled squad, something he was unable to manage in their first season back in the Ryman League with another high turnover of players.
He said: “Obviously we have got James Baker signed and we have agreed a deal now for Michael Shinn, which is a big bonus.
“We have the nucleus of a good side and we just need to make sure we are more robust next year and more disciplined defensively rather than offensively.”
Meanwhile, Smith and assistant Chris Tracey both finally signed 18-month extensions to their own contracts on Saturday.