Brackley Town 1-1 (5-6 pens) Gateshead 19 July 2020
National League North Play-off Eliminator
Penalty heart-break again
Saints fell at the play-off hurdle for the third successive season losing out to Gateshead in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at an eerily deserted St James Park.
“It is disappointing,” Kevin Wilkin said. “The players have given a fantastic effort again today and through the course of the season and we are frustrated again. It probably makes it worse that we had a shot to win it again and we’ve not taken it.”
A closely contested game produced few clear-cut chances but burst into life at the end of the first half. Gateshead failed to convert a 35th minute penalty, Danny Lewis saving to his left from Jordan Preston but the visitors finally profited from mounting pressure to take the lead deep into added time. Greg Olley’s free-kick was not well defended leaving Jake Cooper the simplest of tasks to head the ball over the line.
Within seconds Brackley were level and in remarkable fashion as, directly from the re-start Shane Byrne conjured an outrageous equaliser, the midfielder somehow beating keeper Brad James from inside his own half, the ball dipping beneath the crossbar.
Goal threats were rare in a lacklustre second half as the prospect of a penalty shoot-out loomed. Elliot Forbes’ shot was saved by Lewis and O’Donnell’s effort almost crept in. For Brackley Lee Ndlovu at full stretch almost met Connor Franklin’s low cross in the closest the home team came to settling the game in the 90 minutes.
Instead another St James Park play-off was decided from the penalty spot. Gateshead keeper Brad James was the hero of the hour pulling off three saves to send his side through to meet Boston United in the semi-final.
“Two teams have come out and gone toe to toe and unfortunately it’s not quite happened for us,” Wilkin added. “There were some good performances out there and I think there were some where I would expect a bit more. We always knew that Gateshead would be difficult to break down and that proved to be the case. To come here and do what they’ve done they deserve a lot of credit. We wish them well in the semi-final.”
Brackley Town: Lewis, Myles, Franklin (Daire 87), Byrne, Walker, Dean, Lowe, Murombedzi (Maye 90+2), Ndlovu (Smith 90+3), Armson, Baker (Fairlamb 75). Subs unused: Langmead, Worby.
Gateshead: James, Nicholson, Agnew (Pattison 89), Forbes, Cooper, Williamson, Preston, Deverdics, Keating (Blackett 70), Olley, O’Donnell. Subs unused: Greenfield, Guthrie, Hunter.
Referee: Scott Simpson Assistants: Jacob Lahane and Dan Robinson