IT was play-off agony once again for Southend United’s loyal fans but the word on the terraces was one of pride at the final whistle.

Blues crashed out courtesy of Adam McGurk’s second goal of the tie and despite the players’ best efforts they could not score that all important third goal.

Nine thousand home fans roared their team on from start to finish and after Anthony Straker had pulled Phil Brown’s team level on aggregate, the large majority of them would have backed their side to secure a final date at Wembley.

Tellingly, as the referee blew the final whistle, it was the home support that ran onto the pitch; not to berate their heroes but to console them.

Goalkeeper Daniel Bentley was surrounded by supporters, many of whom will be fearful this may have been the last time they would see the stopper pull on the colours of Southend.

Gary Webb has been watching Blues home and away all season and said hanging onto the likes of Bentley, as well as Kevan Hurst and Ryan Leonard, would be a big challenge this summer.

Mr Webb, 53, from Southend, said: “We put our heart and soul into that match and I don’t think any fan can ask any more than that.

“We lost this match at Burton although the referee’s decision to give a free-kick from which they scored was very questionable.

“All Burton’s goals in the tie came on the break and we were unable to cope with that.

“I just hope the top players can see the promise in this team and stick with us.”

Wendy Burrell, from Hullbridge, said she thought Blues would capitalise on taking the lead in Saturday’s game and go on to win.

“We were playing really good football at that point but the boys did as much as they could to score again, so what can you do?

“Keeping the team together is so important. They played their hearts out for the club today, so I hope they decide to stay.”

Seventeen-year-old Ben Franklin, from Rayleigh, said Blues would come back stronger next season and would be looking to grab automatic promotion.

“We were unlucky and you need a bit of luck in the play-offs,” he said.

“The only negative thing I would say is we could have pushed a bit more after taking the lead.

“I am disappointed but we will carry on and will be back.”