Lancashire’s Steven Croft couldn’t quite save Lytham Cricket Club from relegation in the Liverpool Competiton as they lost a thriller to champions Bootle in the final match of the season on the Fylde coast.
Lytham needed victory at Church Road to climb out of the bottom two in the ECB Premier League but fell five runs short despite a half-century from Croft.
Bootle, already confirmed as league winners, were put into bat and set a target of 167-8 from 59 overs.
A lower total looked on the cards as Anthony Mulligan’s three wickets reduced the visitors to 89-5.
However, opener Will Hale held the innings together, hitting 70 from 171 balls and striking 10 fours.
Hale put on 56 for the sixth wicket with William Purser (34) before being bowled by Lytham skipper Ben Saunders.
Mulligan’s 12 overs cost just 25 runs and Croft took two wickets in his three overs.
Batting number three, the Fylde coast Red Rose star was in early and found a staunch ally in opener Matthew Cartmel (31).
But Croft’s partners were soon disappearing fast as Lytham collapsed from 58-1 to 74-6, the other five players in the top seven contributing just two runs between them.
Croft, fresh from Lancashire’s County Championship second division title celebrations, faced 89 balls and struck six boundaries before falling lbw to Scott Butterworth (3-59 from 16 overs) for 54.
Alex Mason kept Lytham’s hopes alive with a battling 42, including five fours, before being last man out after 50.5 overs with his side agonisingly short at 162, Jhangir Liaqat taking 4-37.
It was Croft’s second-best knock in five innings for Lytham this year, bettered only by his 118 against Formby in May.
Lytham finish at the foot of the table, having won only two of their 22 matches, but would have escaped with victory on Saturday as second-bottom Colwyn Bay and Southport and Birkdale both lost their closing game.
Coming up from the first division are champions Wigan and Sefton Park.