Harrogate Town 3-0 Brackley Town 13/5/18
Highs and lows
After the semi-final high of victory over Bradford Park Avenue and passage into the Promotion Final came the low of defeat at Harrogate Town as the hosts ran out convincing 3-0 winners to seal their place in the National League next season.
“It is very disappointing,” Kevin Wilkin said. “It was an achievement to reach the final and to have this opportunity but on the day we did not perform as we can and as we have done consistently throughout the season. But we will get together, dust ourselves down and prepare for next Sunday’s game. Congratulations today to Harrogate.”
In-form striker Dom Knowles put his side in the driving seat by half-time with two goals, Joe Leesley added a second half third and Saints were left to rue early missed chances on a day when nothing ran for the away side.
The first goal threat of the game came from the visitors as Shane Byrne’s 18th minute shot was deflected for a corner kick and Alex Gudger’s header from the corner was cleared off the line. Harrogate won a disputed 25th minute penalty for hand-ball and Knowles finished clinically to put his side ahead and get the home crowd in good voice.
Brackley three times went close to hitting back as Aaron Williams saw his shot saved, Adam Walker’s shot was blocked and Williams’ header was wide. At the other end Knowles missed a golden chance having latched onto a stray back-pass. On 40 minutes Harrogate did double their lead as Leesley’s free-kick was not cleared and Knowles scooped the ball beyond Danny Lewis. Nine minutes were added at the end of the first period after two breaks for serious injury.
After the interval Saints came close to halving the deficit when Lee Ndlovu got in behind the defence but lobbed just too high with ‘keeper James Belshaw stranded and a goalmouth scramble on the hour mark saw the visitors just inches away from pinching a goal back.
But Harrogate’s dominance eventually told with a 71st minute goal by Leesley to put the outcome beyond doubt. Ryan Fallowfield’s right-wing run and cut back was met to perfection by Leesley who fired past Lewis first time.
Harrogate supporters were celebrating early as there seemed no way back for a Brackley team strangely out of sorts. Six minutes were added after a further injury but on the final whistle the CNG Stadium, bathed in glorious sunshine, was a blaze of yellow and black and a cauldron of noise saluting the victorious home side. For Brackley it was a sad finish to what has been a remarkable league campaign but on the day nobody could dispute that Harrogate had earned their promotion.
Brackley Town: Lewis, Murombedzi, Franklin, Byrne, Gudger (Myles 84), Dean, G.Walker, Armson, Ndlovu (Brown 66), Williams, A.Walker (Lowe 58). Subs unused: Graham, Iaciofano.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Fallowfield, Parker, Falkingham, Burrell, McCombe, Thomson, Emmett (Agnew 89), Beck (Wright 11 (Kerry 51)), Knowles, Leesley. Subs unused: Cracknell, Kitching.
Referee: Leigh Doughty Assistants: Paul Ince and Carl Rooney