Phil Parkinson was left emotionally-drained and struggling to speak after seeing Altrincham’s Wembley dream snatched away from them in dramatic and highly-controversial style at a packed J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday.

A dominant Alty side were leading their FA Trophy semi-final through a Jordan Hulme goal and on the brink of booking their Wembley place when a flare was thrown on to the pitch from the away end at the start of three minutes added time.

Stoppage time was adjusted to allow for the hold-up, and, despite being second-best all game, FC Halifax Town stunned a 4,771 crowd with a 95th-minute equaliser that came less than five seconds before the final whistle.

Alty were able to restart the game and then the whistle sounded to signal a penalty shootout that the visitors won 3-2 after the Robins had initially found themselves 2-0 in front.

“It’s really difficult for me to speak with you, to be perfectly frank, just as it was really difficult to address the players at the end,” said Alty boss Parkinson. “Football is a cruel world, a cruel game, and you don’t always get what you deserve.

“I felt we certainly did enough to win the game in 90 minutes, so to then lose it on penalties is soul-destroying. I’m picking lads up off the floor in there, because they were so desperate to take this club to Wembley. Lads are in tears, absolutely devastated.

“It will take some getting over. I’m not normally an emotional person, but just seeing our fans at the end clapping us off because they knew we had given everything really got to me.

“I’m just so sorry we couldn’t quite get there, and it feels like my insides have been ripped out.

“But moments like this will help these young players grow. They will come back better and stronger for the experience.

“It might not feel that way right now, but they will. It’s all part of the learning curve.”

There will still be a final for Alty this season after goals from James Jones, Regan Linney (two) and Aaron Bennett gave them a 4-0 Cheshire Senior Cup semi-final win at Runcorn Linnets on Tuesday night. Congleton Town or Crewe Alexandra await in the final.