By Matt Badcock
Brackley Town 1 Bromley: 1
Johnson (og) 90+5 Bugiel 19
Brackley Town win 5-4 on penalties
What is it about Kevin Wilkin and dramatic FA Trophy finals?
The Brackley manager’s side had given their all but, with 95 minutes approaching on the clock, looked to have lost out to National League Bromley.
Then Matt Lowe lined up a last-gasp shot that came back off the post and was inadvertently touched over his own goal line by Roger Johnson to send the nail-biting match into extra-time and, eventually, penalties.
Neil Smith’s Bromley led all the way through the shoot-out after David Gregory had saved Shane Byrne’s early kick.
Omar Bugiel, who had put Bromley ahead in the game, had a chance to win it but was off target.
When skipper Jack Holland saw his strike rebound off the post, Andy Brown had Brackley’s fate at his right foot.
The striker sent Gregory the wrong way to spark jubilant scenes among the Saints’ 6,000 faithful – pretty much most of the Northamptonshire town.
Wilkin will say this was a day for the club and his players but it will also no doubt leave him feeling a sense of huge personal satisfaction.
Three years ago he was on the other end of a penalty shoot-out to a Step 2 side. Then manager of Wrexham, they played out a pulsating encounter with North Ferriby United 3-3 – only getting to penalties thanks to Louis Moult’s late extra-time leveller.
Wilkin’s side went on to lose on penalties and the former Nuneaton Town manager would lose his job in the following days.
But at Brackley he has shown just why he is one of Non-League’s most respected operators. With a team packed with the players that helped Nuneaton into Non-League’s top flight, this time he left with the Trophy in his hands.
In truth, an extra 30 minutes was just reward for Brackley’s never-say-die spirit.
Bromley’s opener came through Bugiel came on 19 minutes. Adam Mekki span away from his man in midfield and set off towards goal before, on the edge of the area, he slipped the ball left for Bugiel. The striker took a touch and buried past Danny Lewis into the bottom corner.
It could have been two on 27 minutes. Louis Dennis’ cross was only partially cleared and George Porter arrived to strike on the volley only for keeper Lewis to get down well to hold on with a strong left hand.
Brackley had their moments. Jimmy Armson had a shot blocked by former Premier League defender Johnson and Aaron Williams flashed the ball across the face of goal.
Byrne went even closer. Watching a ball out of the sky, he struck a sweet volley from outside the box that whistled the wrong side of David Gregory’s left post.
Bromley captain Holland had the first chance of the second half, Lewis beating away the defender’s header from a corner.
Brackley then went up the other end and nearly levelled but Armson’s curling left-foot shot was just off target.
The game was starting to open up. Dennis collected the ball on the right flank, carried the ball into the box and squared for Frankie Sutherland, whose effort bent wide.
Kevin Wilkin’s Brackley missed out on promotion to Non-League’s top tier last weekend when they went down in the National League North promotion final to Harrogate Town.
Their travelling support were wondering quite how they hadn’t scored here following four big moments in the space of minutes.
First Johnson made a vital block inside the six-yard box when Williams tried to turn in a cross. From the corner, and after a goalmouth scramble, Armson’s poke at goal came back off the post.
Gregory then had to be out quickly to keep out Williams, who then seemed certain to score the follow-up, but for a brilliant goalline clearance from Jordan Higgs.
On the touchline, Wilkin had a wry smile but he had his hands on his head again soon after when Glenn Walker’s cut back was put over by the arriving Armson.
Bromley changed their shape to three at the back and looked more assured.
Substitutes Josh Rees and Brandon Hanlan nearly combined in the 90th-minute to make the game safe.
On the break, Rees sent the ball behind the Saints’ defence and Hanlan one-on-one with Lewis, who stood tall to block the shot.
It proved crucial as Brackley eventually got the equaliser they deserved. Gregory made an important save to keep out Armson as Brackley threw everything at a leveller. Byrne was kept out by Holland’s goal-saving block before the resulting corner was held onto by Gregory to relieve the tension.
There was a twist to come. Matt Lowe’s shot hit the base of the post and, as he stretched to stop Gaz Dean tapping in, Johnson’s toe poked the ball to send the game into extra time.
Bugiel’s header dropped wide and Hanlan couldn’t get his shot off after great work by Rees, while Williams’ cross only needed a Brackley touch when it zipped across the line.
Penalties were required where Bromley lost in the cruelest manner possible as Brown calmly slotted in the decider.
Brackley: Lewis; Dean, Gudger, Franklin (Myles 78); Lowe (Diggin 111), Byrne, Armson, A Walker, G Walker; Williams, Ndlovu (Brown 52)
Subs not used: Graham, Streete,
Bromley: Gregory; Higgs, Holland, R Johnson, Sterling; Raymond, Sutherland; Porter (Rees 61), Dennis (Hanlan 68), Mekki (Chorley 71); Bugiel
Subs not used: Dunne, D Johnson
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