MARK Robins hopes he and his Coventry City players can use their play-off final pain as fuel to go one step better next season..
The Sky Blues suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat against Luton Town at Wembley after the two teams were locked at 1-1 after extra time.
Substitute Fankaty Dabo missed the decisive penalty for Coventry which was the Sky Blues promotion dream come to a devastating end as Luton triumphed 6-5 on spot kicks.
Once the pain of the defeat has subsided, Robins hopes his players can reflect on the campaign with great pride before attempting to go one step better next season.
Robins said: “Firstly, congratulations to Luton, once the game is over and done with you’ve got to congratulate the winners, they’ve been outstanding all season.
“For us, the opposite of their joy is pain, once that pain starts to dissipate, you have to reflect on what an unbelievable achievement it has been to even be in a play-off final.
“The division is very tough, unfortunately we couldn’t make that next step, it means we’re not quite ready for it, they’ve gone one step better this year.
“We’ve got to see how we galvanise and recover from this and how we move forward from it, there’s plenty of work to be done this summer that’s for sure.
“That’s the aim, we’ve got to try and get back here as quickly as we possibly can or even better.
“It’s painful at the moment but we’ve got to get to a stage where we reflect on what a great season it has been.
“We need to use this is fuel to come back stronger, if you can’t do that then you’re in the wrong sport, you’re in the wrong game.”
City were punished for a slow start when Jordan Clark opened the scoring on 23 minutes before Gustavo Hamer equalised for the Sky Blues in the second half.
However, Hamer was forced off with an ankle injury shortly after his 66th minute leveller.
Sky Blues boss Robins was at a loss to explain Coventry’s below par first-half display but was pleased with Matty Godden’s impact from the bench.
He also explained his decision to replace Kasey Palmer just 22 minutes after the midfielder had come on for his first appearance since February following a lengthy injury lay off.
Robins added: “The first half was a write off as far as we were concerned which was a little bit of a surprise, we gave the ball away too many times.
“There was no point playing four midfield players because we couldn’t get a grip of the ball, you’ve got to credit Luton for that.
“The change at half time made a difference and then we got the goal, we were the team that looked more likely to score.
“The game changed again when Gus got injured, I tried to bring Kasey [Palmer] on to give us some flair and try and create something or score himself.
“I knew I’d have to take him off again in extra-time if it got there, I took that gamble, it just didn’t work out for us in the game.
“The players have been fantastic, they should be proud of themselves and each other, the supporters were brilliant, the noise was incredible, we just couldn’t see it over the line.”
Dabo was the only player to miss in the shoot-out, however, Robins praised the defender’s courage for stepping up to take a spot kick in such a high-pressure game.
He said: “[Fankaty Dabo] is as you expect, he’s devastated, somebody has to miss and unfortunately it was Franky.
“You have to say that everyone stepped up, the penalties were outstanding and then Franky just leant back, he was trying to smash it in.
“Unfortunately, it was high, wide and not so handsome, he’ll come back from it, this is part of sport.
“Whilst it’s very disappointing and the magnitude of the game is such, you have to say how brave and courageous the players were for stepping up in the first place.”