Andy Brown’s decisive penalty wins FA Trophy for Brackley over Bromley

first_imgNearly 17,000 Bromley fans who turned up at Wembley – more than six times their average home attendance – will not remember this day quite as fondly. What will nag at them is the fact that they came agonisingly close to a precious honour on the club’s first appearance at Wembley since the 1949 FA Amateur Cup. Omar Bugiel fired them into the lead in the 19th minute with a sharp finish following a strong run by Adam Mekki. But Bugiel blazed over the bar in the shootout when victory was there for the taking. Between those two shots Bromley withstood ferocious pressure from Brackley, who last week lost to Harrogate in a promotion play-off in which victory would have enabled them to join Bromley in the National League next season.During one chaotic spell around the hour James Armson came close to scoring three times, hitting the post from six yards, slicing wide from nearly as close and seeing Gregory repel a third effort. Aaron Williams was also foiled, his low shot cleared off the line by Dan Johnson.Bromley twice threatened to wrap up victory on the counterattack but Brandon Hanlon was stopped first by a superb last-ditch tackle by Gareth Dean and then by a good save by Danny Lewis. Dean ventured up the other end in the dying seconds and it was he who applied the pressure that forced Johnson to stab the ball into his own goal. Johnson, a former Premier League defender who won the League Cup here with Birmingham City in 2011, was as distraught as Brackley were delighted.Bromley edged back in front when Gregory saved from Shane Byrne in the first shot of the shootout. But then Bugiel missed and Jack Holland hit the post, setting the scene for Brown to claim victory by slotting into the net, which he duly did before towards the outstretched arms of 5,500 Brackley fans.Brackley’s triumph completed a thrilling double-header of non-league showdowns at the national stadium. Earlier Stockton Town and Thatcham Town contested the FA Vase final, the showpiece competition for clubs from the eighth tier and lower. The teams, from different leagues in the ninth tier, were appearing on this stage for the first time, their runs to the final representing the latest high point in several seasons of remarkable progression by each club. Thatcham, champions of the Hellenic League, won 1-0 thanks to a penalty by their prolific striker, Shane Cooper-Clark.Thatcham had good reason to be confident of scoring as they went into the game, having won their league title this season on goal difference after netting 129 times in 38 matches. The west Berkshire side duly broke the deadlock in the 21st minute thanks to a penalty awarded after a foul by Jamie Ward on Jordan Brown. Cooper-Clark rammed the spotkick into the net, albeit via the left hand of Michael Arthur. That brought the striker’s tally for the season to a preposterous 63 goals.Stockton, a Teeside club who began playing senior football only in 2009 and won back-to-back promotions to reach their current perch in Northern League Division One, created chances throughout an absorbing game but could not force an equaliser, as centre-back Baboucarr Jarra twice made goal-saving interventions for Thatcham. Share on LinkedIn Read more Share on Messenger For 94 minutes it looked as if Brackley Town’s first appearance at Wembley in their 128-year history would wind up as an occasion that would haunt them for a very long time. It would have been impossible for them not to dwell on the improbable number of chances they missed while chasing an equaliser during the second half of a wild FA Trophy final. They hit the post, shanked wide from close range, had a shot cleared off the line and were thwarted on several occasions by Bromley’s indefatigable goalkeeper, David Gregory. But they refused to be denied.With seconds remaining in the fifth minute of stoppage time the club from a small market town in Northamptonshire, and a division below Bromley, drew level at last, as a long-range shot by Matt Lowe struck the post and rebounded into the net off the unfortunate defender Roger Johnson. A tense period of extra-time ensued, followed by an even tenser penalty shootout, which had a couple of twists and went to sudden death before Andy Brown, a deputy headmaster by day, struck the decisive blow for Brackley. That triggered scenes of joy at Wembley that will live long in Northamptonshire folklore. “The noise and sheer jubilation was just fantastic,” said their manager, Kevin Wilkin. “Hopefully days like this will happen again on a regular basis.” Hopefully, sure, but replicating drama like this would be a tall order for any club. Football match reports Share on WhatsApp Topics John Bostock: ‘You see life differently when you’re that close to death’ Share on Facebook Reuse this content Share on Pinterest Share on Twitter Share via Emaillast_img

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