Stamford AFC were relegated from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League on Wednesday night without even kicking a ball.
Mickleover Sports drew 1-1 away at Nantwich Town to make it mathematically impossible for the Daniels to get enough points to climb out of the bottom four.
For a while it was all looking so good. Nantwich took the lead in the 15th minute through Liam Shotton but just seven minutes later Jake Green levelled for Sports to earn the all important point which means Mickleover and Stamford’s fate would not come down to the last day of the season when they meet each other on Saturday at the Zeeco Stadium.
It was certainly not the gift Daniels manager Graham Drury wanted on his birthday.
Stamford chairman Bob Feetham said: “It is a bitterly disappointing conclusion to what has been a tremendous effort since Christmas. We had all hoped that Saturday’s final game against Mickleover would give us the chance to stay up in style.
“Graham Drury and his squad had wanted that desperately - and they had come though some very tough games to get within touching distance of that goal.”
“My overriding feeling is one of frustration that we couldn’t do it for the fans. They have been fantastic over these last two campaigns and their support has always been enormously committed.
“I must accept some of the criticisms which suggest we didn’t act quickly enough before Christmas. Yes, Graham Drury should have been at the helm much earlier. We hold our hands up to that. Hindsight, however, is a marvellous thing.”
Long time Stamford player Jon Challinor said: “[It’s a] sad day for Stamford AFC, time to regroup and bounce back next season.”
That was the message from Feetham as well, who said: “Graham is 100 percent the man to lead us next season. He has done a tremendous job.
“Now it’s done it’s time to look to the future. The target is to come straight back. Graham is contracted with us until the end of 2016/17. Pre season and the new campaign will be his. We must give him all the support possible because promotion has to be the target for a club of this size.
“I also want to tell everyone that my fervent wish is that the mood this time next year will be one of elation. The lessons learned will help make that possible.”
To be fair the Daniels gave it their all and came close to pulling off a miracle once again.
Stamford gave themselves the faintest hope of surviving the drop with an impressive 4-1 victory away at Skelmersdale United on Tuesday night.
The Daniels went behind in just the second minute of the match when Max Hazeldine struck for the hosts. However Jordan Smith responded for the visitors just two minutes later to make it all square.
Stamford, knowing anything less than a win would see them relegated then and there, went on the attack and they got their reward. Jake Newman put them in the lead after 25 minutes and Greg Smith made it 3-1 at the break with a goal in the 33rd minute.
In the second half the outstanding Lee Beeson, who had a hand in all three of the first half goals, put his name on the scoresheet shortly after the hour mark.
In the end their efforts were in vain. Stamford have come close, particularly in recent weeks.
Three points against Salford would have been invaluable but they were undone by a 93rd minute goal. A draw against Darlington would have kept them alive but Jake Newman missed injury time.
It was all a case of nearly but not quite. Feetham is hoping next season will finish with popping champagne corks.