EVO-STIK South - East Division Play-Off Final:
Hartley Wintney 1 Cambridge City 0
Cambridge City fell agonisingly short of promotion as they were defeated 1-0 by Hartley Wintney in the Evostik South East Division Play-off Final.
The two teams came together after beating Hayes and Yeading and AFC Dunstable respectively in the midweek Semi Finals.
Lilywhites' boss Robbie Nightingale was forced to do without the services of Nathan Olukanmi, who missed out after getting injured in the midweek win. Leading scorer Ryan Sharman was not fully match fit and had to make do with a place on the bench.
At a sun baked Memorial Ground, City were roared on by 200 travelling fans and got off to a decent start as they took the game to the hosts with the pace of Salim Relizani giving the Hartley defence plenty to think about.
City came close to breaking the deadlock when Sam Squire met a header from a cross, but his effort went wide of the target with the keeper rooted to his line.
The Lilywhites went closer still when the industrious James Hall, playing as a lone striker, was unlucky to see his effort go over the bar when he met a cross from the right.
For all the possession from the visitors it was the home side who took the lead shortly before the break. The goal came from an in-swinging free kick, headed down by Jack Ball, with Nic Ciardini getting the final touch to give Hartley Wintney the lead.
The goal didnít deter City from trying to play some decent flowing football on a rock hard surface, and the City fans sensed the moment when Ben Seymour-Shove was put through, but scuffed his shot over the bar.
With City pushing forward at every opportunity, Hartley had a great chance to put the game to bed when a ball was put in and the onrushing striker couldnít quite make contact otherwise City would have been dead and buried.
Robbie Nightingale rang the changes with Ryan Towner and Salim Relizani being replaced by Jack Vasey and Ryan Sharman. However, it was Ebby Nelson-Addy who had perhaps the best opportunity as he was picked out following a patient build up, but dragged his shot narrowly wide of the post with the goalkeeper beaten.
With City running on empty, opportunities began to open up for the home side as the game entered its final phase, and Josh Bexon was lucky that his scuffed clearance wasnít capitalised on.
Nightingale made one last change when Lewis Wilson replaced Sam Squire. City continued to press and the Hartley goalkeeper twice fumbled the ball as the Lilywhites continued to knock on the door, but it wasnít to be.
So, the season comes to an end. City have gone agonisingly close, but on the day were deprived of some good fortune and ultimately just fell short of an immediate return back to the Southern League top flight.
Click to hear Manager, Robbie Nightingale's views on the game
1. Josh Bexton
2. Ben Robinson
3. Ross Paterson (c) (booked)
4. Sam Squire
5. Jordan Gent
6. Jordan Williams
7. Ebby Nelson-Addy (booked)
8. Ryan Towner
9. James Hall
12.Jack Vasey (10-72)
14.Lewis Wilson (4-77)
17.Ryan Sharman (8-61)
Harley Wintney: 1.Paul Strudley, 2.Dean Stow (c), 3.Nicholas Hutchings, 4.Joshua Webb, 5.Jack Ball (booked), 19.Liam Eagle, 7.Paul Hodges, 8.Tyron Smith (booked), 9.Jake Baxter, 10.Nic Ciardini (Goal 40), 11.Steven Duff
Subs: 14.James Tennant (11-79), 15.Declan Shuttleworth (9=90), 16.Jack French (8-82), 17.Adam Everiss, 20.Chris Harris
Referee: Philip Staynings
Assistants: Thomas Price and Anthony Andrews
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