Eastleigh boss Ben Strevens admitted he was gutted but proud of his Eastleigh team after they missed out on a place in the National League play-off final following a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat at Salford.

Salford keeper Chris Neal saved the decisive spot-kick from Chris Zebroski after the two sides had battled out a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

Strevens said: “Proud is an overwhelming feeling. Gutted at the same time.

“It’s a tough way to lose any game of football and I am gutted for the guys who missed their penalties because all I asked them to do was to trust their technique and go the way they went in the week.

“To be fair to Zeb and Sammy that’s where they’ve been putting them when we practised them.

“If you have got the nerve to step up and take a penalty I will never criticise anyone who does that.

“Football is a cruel game sometimes and I felt we deserved to edge it and we didn’t but I’m incredibly proud to be their manager.”

The home side had the best chances of the first half, with Adam Rooney forcing a superb save from Luke Southwood before Carl Piergianni headed Salford ahead two minutes before half-time.

Alex Wynter crashed a volley against the bar for Eastleigh and Neal saved brilliantly from Mark Yeates before Paul McCallum headed the visitors level in the 57th minute.

Scott Wiseman missed a great chance to win it for Salford in the last minute of normal time and Emmanuel Dieseruvwe hit the post in the extra period before the home side held their nerve to book their place at Wembley.

Strevens added: “They’ve been brilliant.

“I inherited a lot of them off Hilly and Hess when he left and they feel like my players now.

“They’ve been absolutely brilliant for me from the minute I took over.

“We had a tricky start and I was lucky Kenny and Tom and the people at the club didn’t make a kneejerk reaction as they could see what I was trying to do with the boys and it has paid off for the most.

“We were just one little hurdle away from getting a day out at Wembley and who knows what could have happened next Saturday?

“I am proud to be their manager. Gutted obviously, really gutted.

“I had my family over there, my little boy is crying and that put a lump in my throat.

“The people from the club like Kenny were there and gutted and the fans as well. They have got really behind this group. It’s been tough for them the last couple of years but I think they’ve seen what these boys have been trying to do for them.

“They’re proud of them and I’m proud of them as well.”