Gutted Spalding United boss Pat Rayment is adamant the club did nothing wrong after their FA Vase expulsion was rubber-stamped.
The Tulips were kicked out of the national competition last week after it was deemed they fielded an ineligible player in the 3-0 second round triumph at Walsall Wood last month.
Substitute Garfield Robinson was involved in the final few minutes of the victory in the Midlands but it later came to light he was the subject of a suspension in Northamptonshire after playing for the Kettering Nomads club under an assumed name.
The Tulips employed a lawyer to fight their cause in an appeal last Thursday, but that was dismissed by the FA at their London base.
Walsall Wood were therefore reinstated – but UCL Premier Division outfit Wisbech Town knocked them out 1-0 on Saturday, thanks to a last-minute strike from ex-Tulip Tom James.
That ruling ends Spalding’s dream of a first-ever trip to Wembley. They were third favourites to lift the coveted crown – and Rayment admits that this was probably a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for his talented team.
Rayment said: “Garfield was the 29th player the club has signed this season and we carried out the same checks that we had done with the previous 28.
“Nothing was flagged up and we had no reason whatsoever to think there was anything wrong, yet that wasn’t deemed good enough by the FA
“We are not to know that a player has played football elsewhere under an assumed name. The club is free from any blame as far as I am concerned.
“We know we could have gone all the way in the Vase and that is what really makes this hurt. Playing at Wembley is potentially a once in a lifetime experience and we’ve had it taken away.
“The lads’ chins were on the ground over this but I’ve picked them back up and they are now doubly determined to go through the league season unbeaten.”
Title favourites Spalding have created history with the best-ever start to a UCL Premier Division campaign.
They have stormed to 17 successive victories – and that record will remain after the Tulips were informed by the UCL there will be no action taken against them for naming Robinson as an unused substitute in their league victory at Yaxley on November 23.
Rayment has also confirmed that teenager Robinson will not feature for the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field-based club again.