Heartbreak for Brig in extra time

Brig players after their defeat

Brig players after their defeat

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Bamber Bridge 2 Ramsbottom United 3 (after extra time)

Brig had their NPL First Division North promotion hopes dashed after a dramatic extra-time defeat against Ramsbottom United in the play-off final.

Bamber Bridge twice fell behind to goals from Lee Gaskell and Steve Howson before equalising, first through Greg Johnstone and then Paul Alexander.

But Rammy’s Dom Smalley broke Brig hearts in the first period of extra time, coolly finishing sending Ramsbottom into the NPL Premier Division.

It was a horror start for the home side at a packed out Irongate – Ramsbottom’s leading goalscorer Gaskell latched on the end of a pinpoint cross and headd past a helpless Lee Dovey.

Matt Lawlor and Ally Waddecar then saw efforts float wide of goal as Brig went in search of an equaliser in an eventful opening 15 minutes.

Brig settled into the game after a somewhat nervous start and found an equaliser in the 22nd minute.

After an excellent counter-attack saw Brig break from the back with Phil Doughty, skipper Matty Kay and full-back George Bowyer linking up, only to see the latter’s cross flash across the area.

The loose ball was picked up by Waddecar and after being fouled in the build-up, referee Dominic McDonald gave the advantage and former’s cross was met by Johnstone, who glanced a header past former Chester goalkeeper Martin Fearon.

Ramsbottom then had a goal chalked off after Billy Priestly shoved Lawlor over before heading past Dovey in a fairly-contested opening half.

Brig goalkeeper Dovey kept his side in the game straight after the interval, acrobatically tipping a Gaskell header over the bar.

The Rams controlled long periods of the second half but for all their possession, they created little.

Rammy’s Phil Dean then had the chance of the half but he blazed over from eight yards from a Gaskell pull-back with Dovey out of sight.

The visitors cranked up the pressure in the closing minutes and scored with three minutes remaining.

A corner was whipped into the Brig area and unmarked centre-half Howson volleyed home into the bottom corner.

Brig forward Alex Taylor then saw a shot tipped around the post.

Then with just seconds remaining Irongate erupted as Lawlor’s goal-bound shot was handled and referee McDonald had no hesitation in pointing straight to the spot.

Defender Alexander stepped up and slotted a penalty in off the post, sending the ball to Fearon’s left with the goalkeeper diving the other way.

Both sides created little in the first half of extra time but the visitors did grab the lead once again.

The Rams broke away and played through Smalley, who slotted past the onrushing Dovey into the back of the net.

Brig came out hunting for their third equaliser, attacking the Rammy back line at any given opportunity.

Goalscorer Alexander saw his header saved by Fearon, while – at the other end – Dovey saved excellently, smothering a Hulme shot with his legs from six yards.

Fearon then pulled off the save of the match acrobatically in the dying seconds. A corner was swung into the penalty area and Taylor rose above everybody and sent a looping header goalbound.

But with his fingertips, Fearon clawed the ball over the bar stopping a certain goal.

The Rams held on in the closing seconds of the game keeping the ball well and secured their place in 2014/15 NPL Premier Division.

But for Brig, it was simply heartbreaking.

Bamber Bridge: Dovey, Bowyer, Alexander, Lawlor, Doughty, Kay (capt), Waddecar, Thompson, Johnstone (Williams 74) , Taylor, Marlow (Reid 110). Subs (not used): Buchan, Watt, Reynolds.

Attendance: 1,206