1874 Northwich got so close.

And, yet, a margin of victory for Thatcham Town – and the manner in which they achieved it – made Wembley feel far away when the final whistle went at Wincham Park.

The better team had won, and convincingly, over 180 minutes.

What will irk 1874, at least initially, is that they never showed a true version of themselves.

When that sensation fades, it will be replaced by pride at what they have achieved with this run.

Frustratingly, they were always chasing Thatcham.

A distance between the teams on the scoreboard grew when Gavin James, after Shane Cooper-Clark’s free-kick deflected kindly into his path of the defensive wall, swept in an opening goal in the third minute.

If 1874 had one thing at the bottom of a ‘to do’ list, it was to avoid history repeating itself.

Thatcham were buoyed, unsurprisingly, and did not disguise their glee when James – standing in for last week’s match-winner Ross Cook after he succumbed to an injury – doubled their lead midway through the opening period.

Tom Melledew’s corner was headed back across goal by Tom Moran, and James’ initial shot was parried to his left by goalkeeper Greg Hall.

No defender reacted, and the front man forced the loose ball over the line.

It stunned the home team, and they wavered for the next five minutes.

Moran headed narrowly off-target from another set-piece, and Melledew’s low drive skidded past an upright.

1874 did respond though.

Sam Hind sent a glorious cross-field pass into Ryan Jackson’s path, and his shot was repelled by custodian Chris Rackley after he sprinted from his line.

Scott McGowan’s penalty was struck with power out of Rackley’s reach, and those following the men clad in green in a record attendance found their voice.

A succession of set-pieces followed, and the Thatcham custodian’s blushes were spared when Lewis Brownhill smuggled Jackson’s shot off the line after Ryan Mitchell nodded the ball his way.

The interval’s arrival halted 1874’s momentum at exactly the wrong moment.

If timing is everything, then the Kingfishers’ was impeccable.

Instead of defending from an onslaught, they scored again within two minutes of the restart.

James’ deft touch teed up Cooper-Clark and, after using his first touch to create a shooting angle, he used his second to dispatch an unstoppable shot past Hall.

Game over? Pretty much.

However 1874 created openings, and Rackley jabbed out a boot to divert Jake Parker’s shot for a corner.

He was called up on again shortly afterwards, sprinting from his line to smother substitute Taylor Kennerley’s shot after he sprinted clear.

When captain Matthew Woolley met Kennerley’s corner with an emphatic header on 69 minutes, it again gave the home team an outside chance.

As they had done seven days earlier, they finished strongly.

But time was against them, and still they struggled to work up a head of steam.

Another replacement, Rory Fallon, drilled straight at Rackley.

By then 1874’s attacks were fuelled by hope rather than belief.

1874 |4-3-3 | Hall (GK), Connor (Riley 57), Mitchell, Pritchard, Lee Jackson, Parker, Matthew Woolley (Fallon 70), Jones, Hind (Kennerley 51), McGowan, Ryan Jackson Subs not used Whitlock, Meadowcroft Goals McGowan 44 (penalty), Matthew Woolley 69 Booked Jones (foul)

Thatcham | 4-4-2 | Rackley (GK), Miller, Moran, Jarra, Angell, Brownhill, Melledew, Bayley, Elliott (Grant 74), Gavin James (Ashleigh James 78), Cooper-Clark (Johnson 89) Subs not used Thomas, Browne Goals Gavin James 3, 22 Cooper-Clark 47 Booked Moran (foul)

Referee Neil Hair

Attendance 1,693