Town fell 2-0 to Sutton United in what was an entertaining final day encounter as goals either side of half-time from Craig Eastmond and Isaac Olaofe earned the U’s maximum points.
Town fans must have been scratching their heads though as they had a number of opportunities to have taken something from the game after falling behind early on before the U’s second against the ruin of play ended their hopes.
Town made one change to the side that triumphed 3-1 at Forest Green a week ago. Lloyd Kerry, in his final game as a Town player, came into the line-up for Simon Power and was also named captain for the occasion. Both sets of players also formed a guard of honour as Kerry made his way onto the pitch accompanied by his two children.
Matt Gray made four changes for the visitors, who started the day one spot and two points out of the playoff mix. Ben Goodliffe, Omar Bugiel, Isaac Oaofe and Joe Kizzi were all handed starts with Jon Barden, Donovan Wilson, Richie Bennett and Harry Beautyman all dropping to the bench.
And after making the brighter start of the two sides the visitors went ahead on eight minutes. Good work from Will Randall down the left saw him beat George Thomson and find Omar Bugiel, who crashed a shot back off the bar where Eastmond was on hand to head home.
It would prove to be Randall’s last meaningful action of the afternoon however as he was forced off shortly after and replaced by Enzio Boldewijn.
Town were almost level on 15 minutes when Rory McArdle rose highest to head Thomson’s corner against the post. Jack Muldoon Jack Muldoon was on hand for the rebound but couldn’t find the target with his shot from close range.
After being on the backfoot in the opening stages Town began to find their feet, with some neat passing interchanges beginning to probe the Sutton defence.
Midway through the half, a move down the left saw Nathan Sheron feed Luke Armstrong, but he was crowded out before he could get a shot way.
There was always a threat from the visitors though and Olaofe got in behind Warren Burrell and his cross was only half-handled by Joe Cracknell with McArdle well positioned to deal with the resulting danger.
Less than a minute later Cracknell very much kept Town in the game. Kizzi ghosted behind the Town defence and fired a volley across the Town stopper who moved quickly to his right to palm the ball to safety.
Shortly before the break the visitors had a great opportunity to extend their lead when a succession of corners resulted in Kizzi headed wide when well set.
Town then lost possession in the opposition half and found themselves overrun in defence and Eastnond’s cross found Olaofe who headed against Cracknell’s post.
As half-time beckoned Kerry almost capped a headline grabbing afternoon when Pattison’s low cross skidded across the box, but his left-footed strike flashed over the bar.
Despite the lead at the break Sutton knew that results elsewhere meant that victory would still not be good enough to see them make the playoffs.
They went extremely close to doubling the lead within seconds of the re-start when Olaofe struck ferociously low to Cracknell’s right but he was equal to the task.
Town responded with a Pattison trademark run that took him to the edge of the box where he fired a low effort which saw Dean Bouzanis had to turn wide for a corner.
McArdle then met Diamond’s cross to hound the Sutton defence into conceding a corner as Town began to turn up the pressure.
Muldoon was then unlucky not to be awarded a free-kick after being felled by the touchline, a decision that fired up the home fans as the final thirty minutes of the season beckoned.
They were edging closer to getting on the scoresheet and Diamond’s header flashed a matter of inches wide after a tempting delivery from Thomson out on the right.
Kizzi then sacrificed himself for a yellow card to halt a surging Pattison run before Power replaced Kerry, who left the field to a rousing standing ovation.
Town then had their best opportunity of the game to draw themselves level when Diamond sprang the offside trap to round Bouzanis but could only succeed in striking the post, with the ball agonisingly rebounding back to the Sutton goalkeeper.
It was end to end stuff now with both sides trading blows and Sutton had their heads in their hands in disbelief as Bugiel’s chip beat Cracknell only to bounce to safety via the crossbar.
Muldoon then had a double effort turned aside by Bouzanis before he was replaced by Calum Kavanagh after 73 minutes.
Armstrong muscled his way past his marker to take Pattison’s pass and unleash an effort narrowly over Bouzanis’s bar, before a Kavanagh effort from distance took a deflection and looped just over as Sutton were by now hanging on.
Out of nowhere though they doubled their lead. Olaofe broke forward and his effort from the edge of the area took a slight deflection to wrongfoot Cracknell.
Substitute Power was himself then withdrawn after suffering an injury; the Irishman being replaced by Aaron Martin.
With the points all but wrapped up the U’s were left hoping for help elsewhere but ultimately fell just a point short. For Town, safety had already been secured weeks ago and the defeat saw them finish 19th in the final table.
TOWN: Cracknell, Thomson, Burrell, McArdle, Sheron, Austerfield, Kerry (Power, 65, Martin, 80), Pattison, Diamond, Muldoon (Kavanagh, 73), Armstrong.
Subs not used: Giles, Legge, Beck, Martin.
Sutton United: Bouzanis, Goodliffe, John, Adibjoe (Wilson, 75), Bugiel, Randall (Boldewijn, 12), Eastmond, Olaofe, Kizzi, Milsom, Smith.
Subs not used: Barden, Rowe, Beautyman, Nelson, Boldewijn, Bennett.
Goals: Eastmond (8), Olaofe (79)
Booked: Kizzi (61)
Referee: Oliver Langford.