A COUPLE of minutes was all it took to turn the dreams of these York football fans into a nightmare.

England supporters who packed York's pubs and bars to cheer Sven's men during their Euro 2004 opener fell silent just after 9.30pm last night, as Frenchman Zinedine Zidane clinched two goals in extra time.

It was a heart-wrenching blow for loyal fans who packed the Charles XII, at Heslington, patriotically decked out in flags and team shirts.

A mixture of University of York students and Heslington residents, they grabbed a spot anywhere they could to watch the action on a big screen and three small televisions.

They had cheered wildly as Frank Lampard grabbed an England goal in the 38th minute, and clapped passionately as England keeper David James deftly fended off a flurry of French attempts during the nailbiting second half.

At half time, James Carson, 19, described his mood as "buoyant" with pal Tom Burton, also 19, declaring: "They're playing amazing. This is not at all how I thought it would be."

But as the final whistle blew, they sat in disbelief, with their heads in their hands.

"I'm just speechless, dejected, gutted," said Tom.

Many fans struggled to find words to express their emotions. Ian Snoad, 20, was critical of the tactics of England manager Sven Goran Eriksson.

"The three substitutions were a joke," he said.

"He was playing for a draw."

Paul Schagen, the pub's assistant manager, said the atmosphere had been fantastic until the final moments.

"It just died," he said. "It's devastating to lose the first game - and to lose like that."

In York city centre, fans glumly stumbled home, dejectedly carrying their flags and scarves.

But Gemma Glover, 20, and Amy Scholes, 23, were in an upbeat mood as they headed off to find somewhere to continue the night, having watched the match in The Northern Wall and Orgasmic.

"I think we are down, but we're not out," said Amy.

"The French were the hardest in the group," said Gemma. "There are still two more games and we will carry on cheering."

Updated: 10:51 Monday, June 14, 2004