Melton Town manager Tom Manship believes the heartbreak of last season’s near-misses helped forge Saturday’s epic FA Cup upset.
Town were pipped to promotion despite racking up 90 points and lost the Senior County Cup final via the agony of penalties.
And after just three minutes of their FA Cup debut, Manship’s side trailed to a Northern Premier League side who ply their trade two steps higher on the non-league ladder.
But Town gradually settled and were rewarded for a dominant second half performance when late sub Kadeem Price tapped in a 90th-minute equaliser.
And barely had Melton supporters begun making plans for the home replay when Jordan Lever’s finish in the fifth-minute of injury time sealed the biggest shock of the extra preliminary round.
“It was a great performance and I thought we got the result we deserved,” said Manship.
“The heartbreak of last season made the result even better.
“Losing the final on penalties and getting so close to promotion bolstered the group.
“When you hurt someone with a big character they come back stronger.
“Going 1-0 down to a team that’s bigger in club size and budget, it showed great character to come back.”
Their reward for inflicting a first defeat on Worksop since December 22 is a preliminary round tie at home to another set of step four opponents, Cleethorpes Town, on Saturday, August 24.
It also earned them prizemoney of £2,250, and half the gate receipts from Worksop’s sizeable crowd.
Melton will get at least another £960 from the preliminary round, or £2,890 if they can pull off another classic cup upset.
As well as cash, Saturday’s dramatic comeback against semi-professional opposition also earned Town plenty of respect from further afield, including the first Roy of the Rovers Award of the season from the legendary football comic.
“I thought the whole occasion befitted our first-ever appearance in the cup,” said jubilant chairman Sam Ellis.
“The team were one of the highest-ranked in the round, had an unbeaten run going back to last year to protect, it was the largest ground we have played in, and in front of a large partisan crowd.
“We started nervously as you would expect, but we overcame the nerves and looked like the better side for large periods of the game which is testament to the players and management.
“We fought till the very end and the effort put in gave us our rewards which meant the day had a special ending.
“It now dares us to dream that we could do it again in the next round.”
While the result may have raised a few eyebrows, it was not such a shock to the manager and players.
“Everyone believed we could win that game,” Manship insisted.
“I told the players as long as we believe we can get something, we will get something.
“The conditions didn’t help us, but for the first five minutes it was so bad. I thought ‘this is going to be a long afternoon’, but we grew into the game.
“Trying to play against that wind against a team of giants is not an easy test; wind has such a massive effect at non-league level.
“But I told them to keep calm, to play our game and we ended the first half stronger and then kept it going.”
Although not even Manship at his most optimistic could have foreseen the drama to come.
“We had a couple of really good chances before the equaliser and I always believed we would get something,” he added.
“But did I think at 1-0 down with 10 to go we would win? I would say no.
“On the ball and off the ball I have seen us play better – I know how good we can be. But in terms of character it was 10 out of 10.”
Both chairman and manager believed they were underestimated by their opponents.
It was a factor which perhaps played into Melton’s hands, but didn’t impress Manship.
“I had them watched twice, but I heard that they didn’t know anything about us which showed a lack of respect.
“We knew their players and we had a game plan which ultimately won us the game.”
* Melton return to United Counties League business on Saturday when Huntingdon Town visit Signright Park (k-o 3pm).