NIGEL Worthington declared himself “proud” of his York City players despite the club’s play-off bid ending at Fleetwood tonight.

The Minstermen held their hosts to a 0-0 draw following a spirited show during tonight’s second leg on the Lancashire coast.

But ex-Bootham Crescent hero Matty Blair’s first-leg goal proved decisive in a 1-0 aggregate win and sent the Cod Army to Wembley for a May 26 final meeting with either Burton or Southend.

Worthington had nothing but praise, though, for his players’ efforts against Fleetwood and throughout their Sky Bet League Two campaign.

He said: “It was a tremendous effort from start to finish. The energy and commitment never stopped and that’s the group of players we have got.

“As manager of the club, I am very proud of them because they have done that on a regular basis and, to come away to a side like Fleetwood and put on a good show, they deserve full credit. There were a lot of half-chances that did not really fall to us.

“Sometimes, you have to make it happen and maybe we could have finished better or been sharper but they are a good side, make no mistake about that and I wish them all the best in the final.”

Worthington reserved special plaudits for skipper Russell Penn after an inspirational second-leg display, adding: “He epitomises what we are all about.

“He picked up bumps and bruises and there are other players who might have come off because he was battered but he’s a big character and, as a leader on and off the pitch, he has been absolutely fantastic.”

Worthington went on to reveal that he has already identified targets to strengthen his squad for next season and that he will speak to the current out-of-contract players early next week.

The present deals of Lanre Oyebanjo, Michael Coulson, Adam Reed, Calvin Andrew, Tom Allan and Chris Dickinson have all now expired, while Nick Pope, Ben Davies, Will Hayhurst and Ryan Brobbel will all return to their parent clubs.

Worthington said: “We are disappointed at the moment but we have got to get over that, dust ourselves down and get ready for the new season after we have had a holiday. Expectations will rise but, as a manager and players, we have to live with that.

“The budget won’t change. We have clarified that it will be the same and we will deal with that by maximising it as much as possible by bringing players in who will work as hard as the team did tonight.

“We have already identified targets and that is on the go all the while. We have a fantastic spine to the team and will be looking to add to the goalkeeping situation now.

“I will also be speaking to a group of players on Monday afternoon and another group on Tuesday afternoon about how we will be moving forward.”

Worthington was quick, meanwhile, to pay tribute to the efforts of everybody at the club during his first full season at the helm, saying: “I would like to thank all my staff – Steve Torpey, Richard Dryden, Andy Collett, Jeff Miller and Rob Batty – as well as everybody at the club because this season has been a real club and team effort.”