Simon Grayson has vowed to use Preston North End play-off defeat to Rotherham as the motivation for a determined push for automatic promotion next season.
The Lilywhites were beaten 3-1 by the Millers in last night’s semi-final second leg at New York Stadium, and 4-2 on aggregate.
It was their ninth play-off failure, a wretched record which stretches back a quarter of a century.
North End now have the summer to dust themselves down and prepare for another campaign of League One football.
Grayson thinks he has the nucleus of a strong squad already to him, and there will be transfer activity in the close season ready for the 2014/15 campaign.
The PNE boss said: “We will come back a determined bunch after the summer.
“This club is progressing, no doubt about it, and it is only going to keep going in one direction.
“We have been planning like most clubs would, for two different scenarios.
“But what we have is a fantastic group here with good quality and a good work ethic.
“We will add to it in the summer, whether it is players who have been on loan here previously or new ones.
“There is a nucleus of good young players, and Josh Brownhill and Alan Browne will learn from the experience, as will the older ones.
“We will make the squad better. We will use last night and Brentford’s situation last year when they missed out and went on to get automatic promotion this time as a motivation for us.
“At the moment the lads are down, they gave their all for the club and everything I asked for they gave me, whether that was in games or training sessions.
“It hurts when we lose any game, only two clubs can get to the final, and this can be a strong motivational tool.”
North End led through Paul Gallagher’s early free-kick, but Wes Thomas soon headed the Millers level before Lee Frecklington put the home side ahead nine minutes before the interval.
Kieran Agard put it beyond the visitors with a third goal in the 67th minute, although Jack King and Joe Garner both hit the woodwork after that.
Grayson: “I asked the players before they went out to give everything they had got and leave everything on that pitch.
“They did that. Football is all about fine margins and some things didn’t go our way.
“We hit the inside of the post a couple of times and the ball has come back out to their keeper or to one of their defenders – their keeper also flapped at one just before half-time.
“We gave everything, tried different formations to get back into the game.
“As you would imagine it is a hugely disappointed dressing room.
“I don’t know if Rotherham were deserved winners but they did win and full credit to them.
“They will go to Wembley and it should be a decent final against Orient.
“I thought we gave them a game.
“We went at them, got the goal and probably needed to hold on to it for a little bit longer than the eight or nine minutes we did do.
“It was a good advert for League One football but it is all about fine margins and we didn’t get the breaks.
“We have lost to a good team, Rotherham are strong and powerful.
“And there was a fantastic atmosphere created by both sets of supporters.
“I thought our fans were brilliant, even when we were 3-1 down they were singing.
“What is encouraging is that 90 per cent of that dressing room are under contract for next season.
“We will add to the squad and hopefully use this as a motivation to get automatic promotion next season rather than use this stupid system of the play-offs – it is stupid for Preston anyway.”