Nic Ciarini breaks Cambridge City hearts with Hartley Wintney winner
One goal decides play-off final
A goal close to half time did for Cambridge City as they lost 1-0 at Hartley Wintney in the Evo-Stik League, South East Division play-off final.
Having beaten Hayes & Yeading in the semi-finals last week, the Lilywhites made the long trip to Hampshire to face the conquerors of AFC Dunstable in the last four.
Nathan Olukanmi was ruled out through an injury picked up in midweek, while top-scorer Ryan Sharman was not fully match fit so had to settle for a place on the bench.
City had 200 supporters backing them at Hartley Wintney and got off to a good start with the pace of Salim Relizani causing the hosts problems.
They went close to breaking the deadlock through Sam Squire’s header, but it went wide with the keeper rooted to his line.
Lone striker James Hall had an effort go over the bar, but despite City having the majority of possession, Hartley Wintney struck just before half time.
An inswinging free kick was met by Jack Ball, and Nic Ciardini got the final touch to put it in the back of the net.
City continued playing some decent football on the rock hard surface, and Ben Seymour-Shove was put through only to scuff his shot over the bar.
Hartley had a chance to double their lead on the break, but the chance was wasted chance, and City boss Robbie Nightingale rang the changes with Sharman and Jack Vasey thrown on.
Ebby Nelson-Addy dragged a shot narrowly wide of the post with the keeper beaten, but Hartley finished the game strongly and had another good opportunity to get a second which they could not convert.
So City ended up falling just short of an immediate return to the Southern League top flight.