Lancaster City missed out on the play-offs on goal difference despite victory over Evo-Stik First Division North champions Curzon Ashton at Giant Axe on Saturday.
Ryan Winder’s goal on the stroke of half-time was enough to hand the Dolly Blues the win but Ramsbottom United’s 0-0 draw with Bamber Bridge saw them take the coveted fifth spot.
The winger produced a fine finish on the right side of the area after a good move involving Lee Dodgson and Tom Kilifin as Curzon were left one point short of three figures on 99.
As the best side in the league they will ply their trade in the Premier Division next season with City left to rue what might have been despite ending their season on a high.
Knowing victory was their only option, Darren Peacock’s side started brightly but it was champions Curzon who had the best of the early chances.
Simon Woodford fired over from distance after just two minutes with Chris McDonagh then failing to make proper contact after a deep cross found him unmarked on the penalty spot just before the quarter hour.
Matthew Warburton could then only fire straight at Mike Hale when free in the area on 24 minutes before the same player clipped a shot over from 20 yards after the ball had been given away by Winder.
Another City error two minutes later, this time by Billy Akrigg, allowed Niall Cummins a shot from 12 yards but it was expertly tipped over by Hale with Jonathan Hunt heading over from the resultant corner.
City were lucky to be on level terms and grew into the game, Lee Dodgson seeing a low drive from 20 yards go just wide on the half hour before Tom Kilifin shot straight at Hakan Burton from a narrow angle after a corner had dropped to him two minutes later.
Kilifin then had an excellent chance to put the Blues ahead on 43 minutes after being found through on goal by Garry Hunter. It took the striker time to correct his feet however and Burton tipped his effort round the post.
The hosts didn’t have to wait much longer for the opener though, Dodgson feeding Kilifin who slipped the ball to Winder 15 yards out and the former Morecambe youngster drilled a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner of Burton’s net.
The second-half was an all together more nervous affair as the Dolly Blues aimed to keep up their end of the bargain in their bid to reach the play-offs.
Ten minutes after the interval Hale inexplicably tried to beat a man outside the area before being dispossessed with Chris Rowney’s 20-yard effort bouncing up and off the crossbar with City scrambling the ball clear.
The home stopper then went some way to redeeming himself as he beat away Curzon skipper Samuel Walker’s effort on the hour before Rowney again hit a crossbar with a fine effort from distance.
The visitors however didn’t get the goal that would have taken them to 100 points and City should have wrapped up the three points late on.
Kilifin did well to beat Andrew Watson down the right and sprinted half the length of the field before poking a shot over from a narrow angle 10 minutes from time.
Dave Swarbrick then scuffed a golden chance when in on goal with all attentions turning to the score at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium at the final whistle.
It wasn’t to be however with the focus already turning to what can be achieved next season after an impressive first campaign with Peacock at the helm.
Lancaster City: Hale, Hudson, Steel, Marshall (capt), Elderton, Winder, Hunter, Akrigg (Walker 80), Dodgson (Clark 72), Kilifin, Swarbrick (Davis 85). Subs not used: Taylor, Donlon.
Curzon Ashton: Burton, Woodford, Hunt, Watson, Minor (Kay 75), Rowney, Young, Walker, McDonagh (Bett 80), Cummins, Warburton. Subs not used: Horrocks, Watson, Brooke.
Referee: Kevin Mulraine
Star man: Garry Hunter - All action display in the middle of the park