PHIL Parkinson was 'bursting with pride' after Altrincham came agonisingly close to defying the odds and reaching the National League North play-off final at a packed Victory Park on Sunday.

With a remarkable 1,240 travelling fans filling every available space at the away end, Alty stunned long-time league leaders Chorley by taking a 68th-minute lead through Josh Hancock.

But Hancock was shown a straight red card for a sliding challenge five minutes later, leaving 10-man Alty to fight a rearguard action that was finally undone by a scrambled close-range Chorley equaliser eight minutes from time. More defensive resilience kept the score at 1-1 in extra time, but while Alty were peerless at penalties in last Wednesday night's shootout win against Blyth Spartans, they came unstuck this time as Chorley prevailed 3-1, courtesy of three successive saves by keeper Matt Urwin.

Reflecting on a cruel end to another season of eye-catching progress, Alty boss Parkinson said: "Speaking to the lads about the sending off, it seems Josh has gone over the ball, but he slipped, so you would hope a bit of common sense might be shown in a game of this magnitude.

"That cost us the game, because we were comfortable at the time.

"But I am bursting with pride to be wearing this top, with the Alty badge on it and hearing fans singing your name and knowing they are coming along because they want to see the football your team are playing.

"It's astronomical the way this club has come on over the past two years and it is a joy to be around the place.

"It's very hard to stomach what happened at Chorley, but the character the players showed in both play-off games, and all season, fills me with pride, as does the backing we had yet again from our supporters.

"When you consider we finished fifth on a middle-of-the-table budget, there's no doubt we punched above our weight and we can take a lot of confidence from that moving forward."