CHESHAM United were sent back to square one in their quest to get out of the Southern Premier League after they were beaten 3-1 by St Albans City in the play-off final on Monday.
In front of 2,960 fans at The Meadow, Andy Leese’s team endured a slow death at the hands of Saints despite James Potten’s goal after five minutes giving them the dream start.
But they were undone by ghosts of the past as former Chesham striker John Frendo scored either side of a goal from Steve Wales, who only moved from Chesham to St Albans in the last month.
To cap it off of the painful day for Generals fans, Chris Watters, the third former Chesham player in the Saints squad, came off the bench to make Frendo’s second goal.
Leese said: “It’s devastating, absolutely devastating. We’ve worked tirelessly since last summer for this but we didn’t do enough on the day.
“We’d prepared well and knew what to expect, but we made errors and didn’t perform as we have all season and as we know we can.
“I don’t know why not. I’ll probably wrestle with it all summer.
“The players were on the floor afterwards, I’ve never been in a dressing room like it. It was just silent as the realisation of what they’d missed out on hit them.
“After so many hours and 1,000s of miles, it was very hard to take.
“But that’s football, a very cruel mistress.”
This is the third season in a row Chesham have endured play-off heartache after losing in the semi-finals in each of the last two campaigns.
But having got past that hurdle they must have fancied their chances of finishing the job against a team they took four points off during the season.
Furthermore, they were playing on home soil and Potten’s goal gave them the dream start.
But Frendo beat Shane Gore at his near post direct from a free kick after 36 minutes and then Wales slid the ball home for Saints’ second in first half stoppage time.
Chesham could’ve hit back immediately when Bruce Wilson went through on goal, but Paul Bastock saved at his feet and when the ball rebounded off a retreating defender’s shins and floated goalwards, Saints had the pace to get back and survive the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Frendo’s second, thanks to Watters’ persistence on the left, then killed off Chesham’s challenge just before the hour.
Leese said: “Former players coming back to haunt us just makes it harder to take.
“I thought Frendo was tremendous, probably the difference between the two sides, while we had a number of key players not at the races.
“It’s still been an oustanding season though. Our points total would’ve won any other league at this level and we won the Senior Cup and had a good run in The FA Trophy.”
Meanwhile, Leese and co manager Jon Meakes have yet to finalise a new deal at the club.
An agreement in principle was agreed a few weeks ago but the details have yet to ironed out.
There was a board meeting at the club this week and Leese expects things to be confirmed one way or the other shortly.