Manager Dominic Di Paola has congratulated Sussex rivals Lewes on clinching promotion with victory against his Horsham side on Tuesday - but also praised his own players and supporters.
The Hornets were unable to spoil the party as a 4-2 victory for The Rooks in front of 764 fans at the Dripping Pan confirmed that they will play Bostik League Premier Division football next season.
With three games of the season remaining, Lewes top the South Division on 95 points and cannot finish outside the top two, with the focus now on beating second-place Carshalton Athletic to the league title.
The home opened the scoring in the fourth minute goal through Jonte Smith, before Gus Sow added a second on the quarter of an hour.
But a severely-depleted Horsham replied through Dean Bown, who reduced the deficit with a fine strike and then hit the crossbar with a spectacular effort, just minutes after Harry Reed had given the Rooks a 3-1 lead.
With ten minutes remaining Frankie Chappell powered home a header, only for Shane Cojocarel finish a perfectly-executed volley four minutes from time.
Di Paola said: “I thought the boys available gave absolutely everything. We had a makeshift side with no full-backs, a keeper who had not played since October. No Lewis Hyde, Steve Metcalf, Alfie and Bailie Rogers, Fintan Walsh, George Landais and obviously Josh Pelling.
“Hakeem Adelakun and Darren Boswell have not played much recently and think it was a hard one to throw them into but needs must.
“Despite all this Lewes were fired up and the better side and deserved the win and showed why they are promoted and we send our congratulations.
“It’s impossible to compete with the play-off teams when you have players missing, but I thought after going two down, we were better team for a spell. If we go in 2-1 we have a chance, but the goal just before half-time was a sucker punch.
“Second half they contained, but we had a few chances. We did tire and Matt Axell was carrying an injury all game so to be honest, it was unlikely we would get something out of the game.”
On Lewes, Di Paola added: “Personally they are clearly a deserving promotion side but best team we have faced - we can only measure on the three times we have played a side - have been Cray.
“Lewes are very well organised and have a lot of match winners and you don’t get promoted without being a great side.”
And while the night ended with Lewes and their fans celebrating secure the minimum of a promotion place - the Horsham supporters, who travelled in good numbers with their flags and sung all evening, were also singled out for plaudits.
Di Paola commented: “Our supporters are the best. They are so supportive, so loyal and never criticise the boys.
“They are very educated really and just want to see players give their all for the club and the shirt. We are very lucky and they are without doubt the best thing about the club.”
Horsham: Taylor, Farmer, Shelley, Watson, Axell (Street 80), Boswell (House 51), Kikrkwood, Adelakun, Gayler, Bown (Whiteley 84), Cojocarel. Unused: Walsh.