Glenn Pennyfather didn't feel his side got "what we deserved" as Stuart Sinclair's dramatic 92nd-minute winner at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium snatched an aggregate 2-1 victory for Salisbury City and sent them through to a Blue Square Bet South Play-Off final at home to Dover Athletic.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg at Melbourne, Chelmsford conceded to a freak James White goal on the stroke of half time and the tie was set for extra time until Sinclair won the match for the home team in sensational fashion. The Clarets now assess their fourth play-off disappointment in five years and attempt to pick themselves up for the next challenge.
Glenn said: "It wasn't really a fair scoreline, in my opinion. Although offensively we weren't brilliant we were excellent defensively and, for 44 minutes, they didn't get a sniff of our goal. Then they score out of nothing and it changes the mindsets of both teams. The second half was edgy and it was a heck of a strike which won it for them in the end."
"We've got our best ever dressing room this season, but you could hear a pin drop in there after the game. We're hurting badly because we all believed this was the year we'd get promoted from this division. I can't think of any positives right now other than the fact that at least we've had a real go this time. In previous seasons we've limped into the play-offs and done nothing, but I genuinely don't believe we've got what we deserved on this occasion."
There were two changes made to the starting line-up from the first leg, with Rob Edmans drafted in up-front to replace the injured Jamie Slabber. Wide on the left, a hamstring strain for Michael Bakare meant a place for Donovan Simmonds. But, other than a few Chelmsford corners, there was little by way of attacking threat for either side until the 32nd minute when Aiden Palmer's left-footed free kick crashed against the home crossbar.
That did prompt several more opportunities to arise, and a 35th-minute White effort from long range needed saving by visiting goalkeeper St Louis-Hamilton as he pushed the ball around the post. However the fate of the Clarets' custodian took a turn for the worse three minutes. He stretched for a ball and injured himself so Stuart Searle stepped in as substitute.
Chelmsford will have been reasonably pleased with their scenario until Salisbury's crucial leveller arrived seconds before the end of the half. A defensive clearance cannoned off the body of White, who knew little about it but he celebrated as the ball bounced over the line. The hosts then applied a great deal of pressure in the short time there was left in the opening period, Sinclair going close as the second-placed side grew in confidence.
After half time, with the aggregate scores locked, it was Salisbury who looked most likely to make a further impression and White raced towards goal on 51 minutes only to see his effort brush the side netting. Further injury issues arose as Kyle Vassell had to come on for Clarets striker Edmans, who was holding his hamstring, and it was nervous viewing for the sizeable away contingent on the terraces as a shot was cleared off the Chelmsford goal line.
In a rare Clarets attack Kenny Clark could have grabbed a crucial goal on 76 minutes but for custodian Will Puddy, who blocked his goalbound header, while Chris McPhee missed the target by a few inches when he shot wide for Salisbury with seven minutes left. But there would be a cruel late blow for the away side two minutes into injury time when Sinclair fired home from inside the area to make it 2-0 on the day, ending Chelmsford's campaign.
5 Kenny Clark (C)
10 Max Cornhill
12 David Rainford (On for Bridges, 78)
14 Omer Riza
15 Kyle Vassell (On for Edmans, 61)
16 Joe Whight
19 Stuart Searle (GK) (On for St Louis-Hamilton, 38)
Salisbury City: Willem Puddy, Glenn Wilson, Brian Dutton (C), Callum Hart, Ryan Brett, Stuart Sinclair, Ricky Wellard, Chris McPhee, Elliott Frear (Theo Lewis, 46), James White (Robert Matthews, 90+2), Dan Fitchett. Unused Substitutes: Mark Scott, Charles Ademeno, Robbie Sinclair.
Bookings: Chelmsford: Bridges (52, foul). Salisbury: Brett (85, foul).
Referee: David Rock (Hertford).
Assistant Referees: Craig Green (Aldershot) and Sam Ogles (Eastleigh).
Fourth Official: David Woolford (Andover).
City Man of the Match: Kenny Clark.