Cambridge United were denied the chance to secure promotion as Harrogate Town eventually edged the U’s out 5-4 in a goalfest at the Envirovent Stadium...
Mark Bonner’s men were six minutes away from a dramatic fight back but were sunken when by Kevin Lokko registered a decisive ninth goal in the game.
An unchanged United side, knowing that only a point would be enough to seal the deal on promotion, made an aggressive start. Luke Hannant forced the first save of the game from Joe Cracknell on five minutes before Joe Ironside did get the beating of the Harrogate keeper moments later only to see his attempt strike hit the woodwork.
However, it was the Sulpurites who made the first telling contribution on ten minutes, when Ryan Fallowfield’s cross from the right was guided in by Brendan Kiernan six yards out.
And Mark Beck registered another painful blow to United’s hopes three minutes later, Fallowfield again the provider for the hulking striker to cushion past Burton in similar fashion to the opener.
It could have got worse for Bonner’s men on 15, had William Hondermarck been able to keep his volley from a promising position inside the U’s area in target.
Paul Mullin missed a guilt edged opportunity to pull a goal back shortly after, side footing Wes Hoolahan’s cross beyond the far post.
Harrogate pressed on with spoiling United’s party further, with Kiernan adding his second of the game from the penalty spot as a poor start became calamitous for United.
Hoolahan provided a lifeline on 26 minutes, clipping a volley with superb technique which left Cracknell rooted to the spot. And Bonner’s men continued their revival when Hannant popped up on the overlap three minutes later to move the U’s back to within one.
But the U’s defending was still causing issues and a first half littered with goals swung its momentum back towards the home side, with Kiernan following in to scramble over his hat trick in just the 32nd minute.
Dunk and Okedina were introduced for the second half as Mark Bonner shuffled his back four, clearly unsatisfied with the gung-ho nature of United’s first half display.
Mullin crafted an immediate opportunity to pull the scoreline back to a one goal deficit, but got caught in two minds as to whether he should square to Hoolahan or pull the trigger himself and in the end did neither. The striker find the target ten minutes later but this time Cracknell who across quickly to palm away, but the U’s were turning up the pressure.
And it told on the hour mark, once again Hoolahan the architect, twisting and turning before releasing a stabbed cross for Mullin to direct in at close bring it back to just one goal.
Callum Burton pulled out an excellent one on one stop with 20 minutes left on the clock to deny Francis and keep United’s hopes alive.
Hopes that grew significantly when Hoolahan was felled in area and Mullin rifled in a leveller and his 31st league goal of the season.
A game that ebbed and flowed throughout though still had a sting in the tail for United who were dealt the killer blow Kevin Lokko fired a fifth goal in for Harrogate in the 84th minute.