Kane Wills knows Worthing have come a long way in recent years.

But he would have loved to have helped them take the next step via the play-offs.

The experienced midfielder, who came through the Albion youth ranks, spoke after Rebels lost 4-3 at home to Braintree in the Vanarama National League south play-off final.

Promotion would have been a huge step for the club, seeing them take on full-time professional clubs from across the country.

They would have mixing with former EFL outfits such as Southend United, Oldham Athletic, Rochdale, Hartlepool and Adam Hinshelwood’s York City.

Rebels have risen through the ranks of the Isthmian League, the competition with which they are most closely associated by many, to back-to-back play-off campaigns in the sixth tier.

They led in the final but were guilty of defensive lapses, not least on the unchallenged cross and free header which saw them slip to defeat in the second half of extra-time.

Summer activity will include construction of a new covered terrace along the north side of the ground, opposite the main stand which was opened in 1986.

The key development in terms of the playing squad will be the confirmation of a new manager or head coach.

Aarran Racine saw the team through the closing stages of the season, assisted by Darren Budd and Dean Hammond, after Hinshelwood and two colleagues moved to York.

Fans packed into the ground for the play-off semi-final, won by a late goal, and final and Worthing recognised they have a lot to learn in terms of selling tickets for such matches, while asking for some understanding of the club’s size, staffing levels and experience of such events.

The play-off final was the second fixture in recent weeks for which TNT Sports have brought their full outside broadcast crew to show the action live.

It was like going to an EFL match when attending Monday’s final, picking a way through the queues of fans, the police and stewards and past the TV trucks in Woodside Road.

Most seats in the main stand were taken 45 minutes before kick-off while bars and food outlets did good trade.

It was noticeable how many children there were in Worthing shirts – and indeed how many adults were wearing some form of club merchandise.

Worthing will look to maintain that level of interest.

Wills said: “When I was here six years ago, the club was in a completely different position to what it is now.

“The infrastructure that is going into the club is all gearing up to get to that next level.

“We wanted that to be this time around.

“Next year we have to come back again and make sure it’s next time.”

Worthing’s attacking potency has been built around top scorer Ollie Pearce, former Albion youngster Danny Cashman and jet-heeled Joe Felix.

Fans will hope those three stay at the club although will fear they have done well in the shop window.

They have taken youngsters such as Ollie Wright and Jack Wadham on loan from professional clubs.

Such players will now return to their parent clubs but it would seem reasonable to believe Worthing can strike similar loan deals for young talents next season.

They have a busy youth set-up and Brad Dolaghan, who scored 29 league goals for the under-18s last term, has broken into the senior side of late.

Racine praised the way Rebels steadied themselves after a blip in form both before and after the sudden change in management.

He said: “I don’t think we needed to change too much when we came in.

“It was a case of keeping up standards and I think we have done that.

“It was hard at first but, towards the end of the season, we picked up some good form and some good results and it is credit to the players.”

Racine says he is excited about what comes next.

Speaking to Worthing FC TV soon after the Braintree game, he said: “This is my time over at the club as it stands.

“I am excited from a fans’ perspective to see what happens next year.

“A new stand, new personnel coming in, whoever that may be. It’s an exciting time for the club.”

In the meantime, minds will surely go back to Monday’s game over the next few days.

There will be regrets or, at least, thoughts of what might have been.

Having gone behind to a set-piece goal, Worthing had gone ahead with two superb finishes, by Pearce and former Albion under-23s midfielder Jack Spong.

That was when the home side really seemed to be heading for promotion.

Some wind seemed to be taken out of their sails during the stoppage for an unfortunate injury to Braintree’s Leon Davies.

That, at least, was how it looked from the stand although Wills said it did not feel that way out in the middle.

He said: “No, it didn’t to be honest.

“We were in a good flow at that time. We were 2-1 up.

“Then we do a poor throw-in, we lose the ball and they get in and score a goal.”

The ball was thrown in to Pearce, who was dispossessed, and a subsequent long ball was not dealt with by defender Kodi Lyons-Foster.

Charlie Wakefield will not hit any better shot than that which then put Braintree 3-2 up.

But, as on Spong’s goal, there was some really good build-up play by Pearce to set up Cashman to make it 3-3.

And then came key moments again, in extra-time.

Not just the free header from which Reggie Lambe stunned the home side.

Also three superb saves by Braintree keeper Jack Sims, two of them at 3-3 and again from Greg Luer when it seemed his header was taking the match to penalties.

Wills said: “You saw the good and the bad of us, managing the game when we are 2-1 up.

“Some of the goals we concede are not great.

“Look, we will take it, we are really disappointed today and we will go again.”