It was far from ‘third time lucky’ for Exeter City, who lost their third League Two play-off final in four seasons.
Dreams of a return to League One after eight years of exile were dashed as Northampton Town comfortably beat the Grecians 4-0.
City, who were beaten by Blackpool in 2017 and Coventry in 2018 ended the match with 10 men. Dean Moxey was shown a second-half red card as his team were losing 2-0 for a poor tackle on Ryan Waston.
Supporters, who could not get to the match due to coronavirus restrictions, were replaced by cardboard cut-outs, with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and actor Adrian Edmondson in the Exeter end.
Matt Taylor, Exeter City manager, says his team continued to "break under pressure", adding, "with 10 men at Wembley, 2-0 down you've got absolutely no chance.
"We had no out, we didn't have enough bodies on the pitch and that was a real brutal last half an hour of the game to witness."
Taylor says Northampton were "impressive", and told reporters they uncovered a number of hidden demons from previous trips to Wembley in his players.
He says: "It is what it is, you can't change that result tonight. As much as we're hurting and probably a little bit embarrassed about getting beaten 4-0 in a Playoff final at Wembley we've had a good positive season, but it counts for nothing because we've not been successful.
"I built a certain type of team, a type of team that represents the club in a really positive manner, unfortunately we didn't do that tonight and it hurts even because we've not done it on the bigger stage."
He added that the club was currently financially stable, and had been well managed, but, says the money will quickly run out until it is decided when the fans can return to the ground.
It was a shaky start for Exeter City who appeared to lack the confidence of Northampton Town.
Confidence that was bolstered just 10 minutes in when Ryan Watson’s shot from a deflection gave Northampton Town the lead.
City’s nerves were further tested when the Cobblers had a chance to double it just minutes later as Jonny Maxted did well to keep out a Nicky Adams free kick.
But the relief did not last long for the Grecians as Callum Morton’s close range effort gave Northampton their second, and Exeter the difficult task of two goals to chase.
A chance arose for Ryan Bowman as the closing five minutes of the first half approached but his header went straight to the hands of Northampton keeper Steve Arnold.
And just before the break Jonny Maxted was tested again, making a crucial save from Vadaine Oliver’s header.
The pressure remained on Exeter City as the second half began and it only intensified when Dean Moxey was shown a straight red for a challenge on Ryan Watson.
Down to 10 men and 2-0 down in the 58th minute, Exeter City’s fate was all but sealed.
It was really only a matter of time before Northampton Town capitalised on their advantage, after 80 minutes Sam Hoskins side footed in the Cobblers third goal.
The full time whistle could not come soon enough for the Grecians but the Cobblers were not done. Andy Williams tapped home from close range and sunk the final nail in Exeter City’s coffin.
It’s more Wembley woe for Exeter City as Northampton Town return to League One.
Wembley trips are always memorable but this one was like no other, thought to be the first competitive game ever played at the home of football behind closed doors.
The chance for Wembley Way to be flooded by fans in the colours of lower league clubs is a special one, reserved only for play-off and cup finals. The absence of supporters was stark from the minute we arrived.
Perhaps the 12th man would have given Exeter City a boost when they needed it most but at least fans didn’t have to suffer a miserable 170 mile trip home.
For me, being handed a mask on arrival and undergoing a medical screening before taking a socially distanced seat was bizarre. I certainly missed the heat of a hot drink for my hands and, to some degree, the press room grub.
It was a privilege to be at such a historic occasion but in the words of Exeter City Chairman Julian Tagg, let’s hope a play-off campaign like this one never happens again.