SLIPSHOD Town Reserves last night missed the chance of ending their season with a play-off final.
They were deservedly beaten 2-0 by lively Carlisle in the Pontin's League semi-finals at Brunton Park thanks to goals from Brendan McGill and substitute James Earl.
While Carlisle now have a final next week against Doncaster Rovers, who beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-1 in the other semi, Town can reflect on never hitting their best in the North-West.
John Dungworth's side, playing 4-3-3, were very poor in the first half (despite the efforts of Aaron Hardy to spark midfield) and, while they improved to have much the better of the second period, it was not enough.
McGill's opener in the 17th minute was symptomatic of the display.
Michael Collins was robbed in midfield by busy wingman Simon Hackney, who then showed his pace before delivering a low, skidding cross.
There was confusion in the Town defence as Mark Rivers let the ball run and McGill was left unmarked at the back post to sidefoot home.
Keeper Phil Senior had no chance and Carlisle, with two solid banks of four in defence, only once looked like relinquishing the lead.
That was on 31 minutes when James Hand supplied a cross for John McAliskey and, when the ball broke to Adnan Ahmed, he connected with a crunching left-foot half-volley which Anthony Williams miraculously tipped onto a post.
Dangerous Glen Murray had twice gone close to extending Carlisle's lead but, in the second half, Town showed much more hunger and sharpness.
Hand, David Walls and Matthew Young all got into good attacking positions at times, only to be let down by the final ball, while McAliskey was desperately unlucky not to level on 64 minutes when his deflected shot crashed against the woodwork.
Town continued to work hard, pushing skipper John McCombe up front in the last 15 minutes.
But they still lacked penetration and were punished when Earl scored, from another swift Hackney break, in the final minute.
It was the perfect prelude to Carlisle receiving the Pontin's Division I West trophy after the final whistle.
Town: Senior, Walls, Skarz, Hardy, McCombe, Clarke, Young, Collins, McAliskey, Ahmed, Hand (Biddle, 83mins). Subs not used: Wilson, Eastwood, Racchi, Bailey.