Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale praised his players’ belief after they scored in the fifth minute of injury time to book a place in the play-off final against Blackpool.
The Grecians had been leading 2-0 against Carlisle United in the semi-final at St James Park thanks to a double from Ollie Watkins
. However, the Cumbrians – just as they had done in the first leg – battled back to level the tie with goals from Jason Kennedy and John O’Sullivan.
However, City kept positive and Jack Stacey won the match and the tie with a sweet strike in stoppage time.
"It was very exciting and it was a strange feeling because I was more nervous at 2-1 and the fact we were holding on for the last five minutes,” said Tis. “But once they scored their goal there was a strange acceptance that we’d have to go and get another.
"We said all week that if they score two, we’ll score three, if they score three, we’ll score four.
“It's hard to stop them (Carlisle). You have to respect the way they attack, they’re a very well-drilled team. At 2-2, we just thought we’d score another – we had Reuben Reid ready to come on, it was positive thoughts.
“Of course, when Jack got it, I just thought 'please, hit the target'.
“We spoke all week about how they’d come back at us so many times, they’re so good at it that we just thought crikey, we need to keep attacking.
"There's no point standing back or sitting and waiting – if they score two, we’ll score three, if they score three, we'll score four – I couldn’t have prophesized that any better, really.”
Tis also added that he and the players never lost faith even during November when a late defeat at Carlisle United sent them bottom of the table and the team spirit they have in the camp saw them through.
“It goes back to the start of the year where we had a dozen games where we could hardly put a team out and there was discontent everywhere,” said Tis. “People were questioning me and the squad and there’s only so much you can do.
“However, there are quotes I made where we were bottom of the league and I said this was the best group of players I’d had in about seven or eight years that were probably scoffed at the time. As a manager you’ve got to believe in the players and there was no difference with the spirit and attitude in the players than there was leading into this game.
"They've been behind each other and it's been a very determined 30 games to go from bottom of the league to a play-off final and we've still got another one to go, so let's not eulogise too much.
"We're now having the opportunity of a great day out and I don't want it to just be a great day out, I want it to be a successful day out – I’ve won there before and I've lost there before, I know what it feels like to do both.”