POOLE Town were victims of a smash-and-grab raid at Tatnam as this afternoon’s 1-0 defeat to Cambridge City all but ended their play-off hopes.
Despite dominating the first 45 minutes, Dolphins fell to Josh Beech’s sucker punch early in the second half after which City were content to stifle the game and run down the clock at every opportunity.
Visibly deflated by what proved to be the winner, weary Poole never looked like mustering the energy to breach a dogged and determined Lilywhites backline in what would appear to be a decisive setback.
The loss to a direct rival for the top five, coupled with victories for fellow contenders St Albans City and Stourbridge, has left Tom Killick’s men four points shy of their goal with just two matches to play.
Poole missed what turned out to be their best opening of the match after just two minutes when Luke Burbidge’s centre was laid off by Ekow Elliott only for Marvin Brooks to handsomely clear the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
City just did enough to deal with a series of teasing crosses early on but were indebted to keeper Zac Barrett who pushed wide Jon Davies’s fierce half-volley on 27 minutes.
Cambridge were incensed when 40-goal top scorer Adam Marriott had to be substituted through injury after a collision with Lamin Dibba but referee Tim Wood, who was right on top of the incident, waved play on.
Davies forced another smart stop from Barrett and Steve Devlin cleared the crossbar when well placed before the break, but that was as good as it got for Dolphins who never recovered from a sluggish start to the second half.
Within 30 seconds of the play resuming, substitute Kelvin Bossman went down in the box after a tangle with Dibba, prompting Wood to hastily point to the spot.
Many around Tatnam felt justice was done, though, when Andrew Phillips scuffed his woeful effort from 12 yards into the grateful arms of Nick Hutchings.
However, Dolphins didn’t heed the warning and when James Brighton bombed on from left-back to force a smart stop from Hutchings, the alert Beech was on hand to nod over the line with Poole's keeper grounded.
Poole could have been level within seconds as Davies swung in a cross to the far post but the stretching Burbidge somehow headed wide.
Beech, already on a booking, was lucky to stay on the pitch after clattering Devlin on the halfway line as fortune began to smile on City and confidence drained from the hosts.
Substitutes Jordan Chiedozie and Michael Charles saw late shots sail over the crossbar but much like what Poole had produced after the interval, their efforts lacked conviction as the last bit of hope evaportaed during a subdued finale.
Dolphins: Hutchings, Clarke (Chiedozie, 59), Martin, Dibba, Wannell, Pettefer, Burbidge, Devlin, Elliott, Davies (Charles, 71), Brooks (Davis, 57). Unused subs: Lowes, Thomas (g/k).
- Elsewhere, Manny Soetan's early goal proved in vain as threadbare backmarkers Bashley lost 3-1 at St Neots Town.
In Southern South & West, top scorer Mark Gamble was on target as Wimborne Town drew 1-1 at Cirencester Town.
Christchurch bagged their third win in five Wessex Premier matches with a 2-1 victory over Horndean.