Preston North End boss Simon Grayson admitted to a massive sense of disappointment over his side’s failure to secure automatic promotion.
But he says they must now take their ‘second chance’ in the play-offs.
Yesterday lunchtime’s 1-0 defeat to Colchester meant they were pipped to second place by MK Dons, who beat Yeovil Town 5-1.
PNE now face Chesterfield in the play-off semi-finals, the first leg at the Proact Stadium on Thursday night (7.45pm).
Deepdale will host the return game on Sunday afternoon (12.15pm).
It is the 10th time that PNE have been in the play-offs since 1989 and they have yet to secure promotion through the end-of-season knockout.
While Grayson genuinely believed his side would get the win yesterday to secure automatic promotion, he had scouts at Sheffield United’s clash with Chesterfield.
“We had to keep one eye on the play-offs and be professional.
“But I genuinely believed that we would get promoted on Sunday because of the group of players we have and the run we’ve been on,” said Grayson.
“Unfortunately we have not achieved automatic promotion and now we have a second opportunity.
“It is a chance to go again on Thursday against Chesterfield and then next Sunday.
“Hopefully we can get past them, go to Wembley and get promoted that way.
“It is probably very difficult for people to get their head around that at the moment.
“But we have to go again, get the players psychologically right and go into the play-offs in a positive manner.
“The dressing room was devastated after the game as you could imagine – not a lot was said, people were stuck for words almost.
“We have reiterated to the players that we have got a second opportunity.
“With the games being when they are, we have not got time to feel sorry for ourselves.”
North End were well below their best at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
They had the backing of a noisy 3,000-strong away support but failed to score in a league game for the first time since November 4.
In particular, their play in the final third of the pitch was off key, with few clear-cut chances created.
Colchester missed a penalty in the 58th minute, Chris Porter blazing high over the bar after Sam Johnstone’s foul on George Moncur had conceded it.
That was a let-off which PNE did not take advantage of, Moncur scoring the home side’s winner eight minutes from time – a result which saved the U’s from relegation.
Said Grayson: “Give credit to Colchester, their back line played very well against our attackers.
“Saying that, we didn’t show the quality which was needed. In our unbeaten run we’ve had players who created chances and have taken them – on this occasion we weren’t at our best in that area of the pitch.”