POOLE Town’s hopes of a return to National League South at the first attempt came to an end in controversial circumstances after they lost 1-0 to Met Police in the Southern League South play-off final.

In a match where chances were at a premium, Jack Mazzone’s second-half header clinched victory for Met Police.

Dolphins defender Jack Dickson thought he had cleared the effort before it crossed the line but the officials awarded the goal despite complaints on the pitch and in the dugout.

Tom Killick’s charges attempted to find a way back into the match but they could not challenge goalkeeper Bertie Schotterl.

The Tatnam outfit now face another season in Southern League South in 2019-20.

Poole employed an unchanged starting XI from Wednesday’s penalty shoot-out victory against Taunton, while the bench was boosted by the return of Cherries loanee Jake Scrimshaw.

Dolphins started with more control than the hosts but failed to create any chances of note in the opening exchanges.

The best opening in the first half came for Poole in the 17th minute. Jez Bedford picked out Marvin Brooks in the 18-yard box. He quickly unleashed a shot which Schotterl saved well with his feet.

The Dorset side continued to press but were unable to produce further opportunities, while the hosts started to find a foothold in the contest.

In the 34th minute, substitute John Gilbert went close but could not steer his volley on target with Met Police’s first genuine chance.

Left-back Nesta Guiness-Walker then drove into Dolphins territory and earned his side a corner. Chislett’s set-piece came to Mazzone, but Luke Cairney made a routine stop.

After the break, Dolphins again made a bright start and forced an early corner, which came to nothing.

A long throw from Josh Leslie-Smith fell nicely to Bedford but he lacked composure and failed to test Schotterl.

With the game still in the balance, Killick brought Scrimshaw on in place of James Constable in the 57th minute.

Cairney was called into action with a brilliant fingertip save to deny a long-range strike from Gilbert.

Poole continued to turn the screw and midway through the second half almost had the lead. Dickson’s cross presented Jake Smeeton with a great headed chance but he could only earn his side a corner. Corby Moore’s delivery was headed towards goal by Brooks and looked  destined for the back of the net before Met Police scrambled clear.

At the other end, Cairney did well to save Ethan Chislett’s low effort.

However, with their confidence growing, Met Police broke the deadlock with the controversial goal in the 72nd minute. Cairney rushed off his line to claim a hopeful high ball into the box but was beaten to it by Mazzone, flicked a header goalwards. Dickson dashed back and sent the ball clear, however, the assistant referee said it had crossed the line.

Poole launched furious complaints to the officials but they were in vain.

In the 81st minute, Dolphins fashioned their best chance for an equaliser. Another launched throw from Leslie-Smith was flicked on by Brooks to Scrimshaw, who sent a sharp effort just over the crossbar.

Dolphins: Cairney, Dickson, Smeeton, Spetch, Whisken, Leslie-Smith, Griffin (Clarke, 78), Moore, Constable (Scrimshaw, 57), Brooks, Bedford (Grange, 65). Unused subs: House, Boote.