BOGNOR suffered final-day heartbreak as they missed out on the Ryman League division one south title and automatic promotion, after drawing 1-1 at relegated Chatham.
The Rocks began the day in pole position but their draw let in Met Police whose 1-0 win over Merstham saw them nick the title on goal difference.
Now the Rocks management, players and fans must lift themselves for the lottery of the play-offs, with the semi-final expected to be played on Tuesday night.
Rocks will face Dulwich Hamlet, who finished a full 31 points behind them.
Darin Killpartrick’s men have already beaten Dulwich home and away.
But the worry will be that Dulwich have that crucial end-of-season momentum after sealing their spot with a late surge.
In contrast, the Rocks go into the game on the back of a major disappointment.
‘I can’t begin to describe how we feel and it is a real kick in the teeth,’ said Killpartrick.
‘We choked slightly and didn’t play as well as we could have done.
‘Though we got ourselves into some good areas we failed to capitalise.
‘There were a lot of upset players in the changing room afterwards.
‘We have to accept that football has a habit of being very cruel but we have to get on with it.
‘It is vital we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back on the bike.
‘It is now a whole new ball game.
‘The aim hasn’t changed, though, and the target is still to win two more games and get promoted.
‘Our fans have been fantastic and, more than anything, we want to do it for them.’
In an end-to-end encounter, Chatham took a 37th-minute lead.
Francis Tshikaya weaved through the Bognor defence and, after exchanging a couple of passes, the tricky right-sided player slotted home the opener.
The Rocks levelled on 43 minutes. Chatham keeper Adam Molloy punched the ball high into the air and when it dropped, Jason Prior steered it into an empty net – for his 38th league goal of the season.
Both sides had chances in the second half but the Rocks fell just short.
‘Life in general can do things like this and it is how we respond now that is important,’ said Killpartrick.