Historic occasions to end the season are fast becoming the norm for St Ives Town, but the latest one did not come complete with a fairytale finish yesterday.

Ricky Marheineke's men were beaten 4-2 on penalties by Hayes & Yeading when hosting and starring in the Southern League Challenge Cup final for the first time.

The showpiece clash took place only a couple of days short of a year on from their famous Division One (Central) play-off final triumph against AFC Rushden & Diamonds secured promotion to Step 3.

But there were no raucous celebrations this time around as in considerably better weather conditions, and in front of a much smaller crowd at ProEdge Westwood Road (although a turnout of 385 was still pretty decent), the hosts succumbed on spot-kicks.

Danny Kelly and Charlie Day both saw their efforts saved as Hayes & Yeading, a team relegated from the Premier Division the previous weekend, prevailed following an initial 1-1 deadlock.

Saints survived by nine points in their debut campaign at that level, but the visitors were the better side in this knockout finale which featured a lively first half followed by a low-key second period before the contest was eventually settled from 12 yards.

"We played well early on and then finished the game quite strongly after changing formation, but we weren't in it for enough of it," admitted manager Marheineke.

"It would have been great to finish off a good season with a trophy, but unfortunately it wasn't to be."

St Ives certainly did make a lively start with a Ben Seymour-Shove shot being well blocked and a Kelly header well saved before they hit the front.

That breakthrough arrived after a quarter-of-an-hour and involved both aforementioned players as Seymour-Shove delivered a corner from which Kelly saw another header smartly saved by visiting goalkeeper Danny Boness, but skipper Charlie De'Ath reacted smartly to head in the rebound.

But the opening goal seemed to spark Hayes & Yeading into life and only a spectacular Tim Trebes save prevented Anthony Edgar from equalising almost immediately.

The Saints keeper then excelled again to deny Mitchell Weiss from the resulting corner and was also required to dive full-length to his right to turn away a Josh Chamberlain long-range blast.

But he couldn't stop Hayes & Yeading levelling from the spot in the 25th minute when being sent the wrong way by Edgar after referee Paul Johnson penalised a Jordan Jarrold shove on Sahr Kabba.

Edgar then placed a 20-yard drive just wide and Mitchell Weiss missed the target from considerably closer range as the visitors continued to play the more attacking football for the remainder of the second half.

St Ives often lacked creativity - a perfectly understandable situation given they were without their leading scorer and cleverest attacker in Josh Dawkin.

The wideman suffered a double-break of the right leg in the club's final Premier Division game at champions Chippenham the previous Saturday. A collection held during the final raised more than £500 for a player who faces tough times during his recovery due to being self-employed.

Those on the pitch also gave generously in terms of effort, but the second period lacked quality and goalmouth incident was at a premium.

Seymour-Shove came closest to a second Saints goal when forcing Boness into a smart save six minutes after the restart and then steered a curler inches wide as the final quarter-of-an-hour fast approached.

At the other end Trebes denied Edgar with a smart stop early in the second half and just about managed to help another Chamberlain thunderbolt over his crossbar, but a penalty shoot-out seemed almost inevitable.

And when it was required, Saints were found wanting. Kelly's opening was comfortably saved by Boness, who also went the right way to deny Day with the hosts' fourth effort.

That left the stage clear for Edgar to settle the issue and, just as he had done more than an hour earlier, he again had no trouble in beating Trebes from 12 yards.

Marheineke and his players certainly won't have enjoyed seeing Hayes & Yeading lift the trophy, but they have plenty to look back on fondly from this season.

The Saints boss added: "This season was all about surviving and we managed to do that in a manner which should make everyone connected to the club proud.

"We'll have the same goal and the same target of 48 points next season, but we obviously hope we can kick on again.

"I'm not a manager who is just happy to tread water. I'm ambitious and want the club to continue to be progressive.

"I've not sat down with my chairman as yet, but I'm certainly hoping my budget won't be reduced.

"We've finished the season with a group of 12 senior players and we obviously need to build on that.

"This performance was a prime example of why we have to bring in creativity and goals.

"We'll speak to six or seven players with the hope of persuading three or four to come in.

"We were an unknown quantity in our first season at this level and that's why it is important to add something different for the future."