ROBBIE Weir says Burton Albion will come back stronger after a “devastating” defeat at Wembley yesterday.
In a largely tight game, the Brewers lost to the only goal, a fortunate free-kick from Antoni Sarcevic that caught out goalkeeper Dean Lyness to win the League Two play-off final for Fleetwood Town.
It means two seasons in a row, Burton have been beaten in the play-offs, but midfielder Weir says the team can take heart from going a step further than last year, when they lost to Bradford City in the semi-finals.
“It’s absolutely devastating,” said Weir.
“We got to the play-offs last year, and this year we got a bit further but have the heartbreak of not going through again.
“This year we got a bit further than last year, and next year we’ll go even further.
“You can’t put into words the feeling that we’ve just missed out.
“It was so close but yet so far again.
“The lads are professional footballers and this is what we want, to play at stadiums like this and in games like this.
“We want promotion on our CVs but that’s football – it’s a cruel game.”
After last season’s heartbreak, manager Gary Rowett told the team they could push on – which they have done – and Weir revealed that the message was the same in the dressing room at the national stadium.
“The gaffer said last year that we’d come back stronger and we have,” said the 25-year-old.
“We’ve gone a step further and he’s said it again that we’ll come back even stronger.
“And that I do believe.
“The positive is that we’ve played in a stadium like this, and if we end up coming back here next year, we’ve been here so we know what it’s all about.
“As a group of lads, that hurt brings us together, so we’ll be much stronger as a team.”
Burton were under the cosh for much of the first half, and though they improved after the break, could not find a way through a solid Cod Army defence.
However, Weir had nothing but praise for his team-mates.
He said: “We started well, and we started bright – we had a gameplan and we stuck to it.
“I thought we did well from the kick-off and I thought the lads were fantastic.
“It was a lucky goal, if you want to put it that way, but on the day I thought we were the better side by far.
“We created a lot of chances and I think Billy (Kee) and Gurks (Adam McGurk) did well up top.
“They had a number of chances, Belly (Lee Bell) had a couple, and Billy slipped Matty Palmer in.”
Shortly before the goal, Burton had brought on talented winger Zeli Ismail, and he asked some questions of the Fleetwood defence.
He replaced Alex MacDonald, who had done a similar job in the first half, and Weir was full of praise for both wide men.
Said the Belfast-born midfielder: “I think Zeli did well, but I thought Macca was outstanding in the first half.
“You know what you’re going to get with Zeli – defenders hate playing against him.
“Overall, I thought the lads were fantastic, we couldn’t have asked any more of them, but it just wasn’t our day.”
Just over 14,000 fans were in attendance at Wembley, and it seemed as though there were more from Burton than Fleetwood.
It certainly sounded like it to Weir, who said: “The fans were absolutely fantastic – they didn’t shut up all game.
“We couldn’t have asked for any more from the fans travelling down from Burton.
“They’ve been great all season and today just sums up how good they are.”
Weir got to captain the team for the final 12 minutes after skipper Bell was withdrawn.
Asked if it felt good to wear the armband at Wembley, he said: “Of course.
“I’ve captained the team a few times this season when Belly or Sharpsy (Ian Sharps) have gone off.
“But captaining the team at Wembley – even playing at Wembley – is something not many players even in the Premier League will do.
“It just tops it all off and it’s just unfortunate the result didn’t go for us.”