UTTOXETER Town crashed out of the League Cup at the semi-final stage after being out-battled, outplayed and outworked by an organised Ball Haye Green side.
It was the first time in the club's recent Saturday league history that they have lost two games on the bounce and will serve as a timely reminder to manager Mark Grimley and his assistant Andy O'Connor that Town have to improve if they are to achieve their dreams on and off the pitch.
With Nick Ward, Tommy Smith, Matty Redshaw and Mark Hodson all unavailable it was always going to be a difficult ask going to a Green side who have been in superb home form all season – but what the management team would not have expected was the whimper with which Town exited the competition.
A soft corner gave the hosts the lead on 15 minutes when a lofted delivery was not contested, and Green's centre-back was able to head home with ease from 12 yards.
It clearly knocked a fragile Town's confidence and there was little sign of the visitors getting back into the game in a disappointing opening spell.
A lunging challenge by Jason Cockshutt then saw referee Matt Barlow point to the spot and Mike Keates made no mistake, sending Alex Langridge the wrong way to extend Ball Haye's advantage.
A few of Town's players tried to force the issue but too many were off their game and other than a James Curley volley, Jack Holley flick and Liam Sowter run there was little of note for Uttoxeter's supporters to cheer.
The second half showed a slight improvement, Martin Gadsby supported the previously isolated James Curley in attack and the latter nearly halved the deficit when he took Kyle Esplin's pass in his stride only to poked the ball the wrong side of the post.
As it was, Green killed the game on 65 minutes when Bagley, one of the few shining lights, was dispossessed 50 yards from goal and midfielder Shelton was able to burst through and prod home the final goal.
Langridge pulled off a wonderful save to keep the score at 3-0 before a few more half chances came and went for a stunned Town.
The only consolation being that the final will also feature Wolstanton – giving the two league title favourites an additional game to fit into their tight schedule.
Infinity IT man-of-the-match: Lee Bagley
Town: Langridge, Woods, Price, Bagley, Collins Sowter, Gadsby, Esplin, Cockshutt, Curley, Holley (Richards 51).