Brackley Town are tonight basking in the glory after lifting the Buildbase FA Trophy following a dramatic day at Wembley.
Substitute Andy Brown slotted home the crucial spot-kick as Saints beat Bromley 5-4 in the penalty shoot-out to win Sunday’s final, one in which they trailed for so long before emerging victorious. The game ended 1-1 after extra-time after skipper Gareth Dean finally cancelled out Omar Bugiel’s first half opener.
Saints squandered numerous chances to have got back on level terms before they did in the final minute of normal time. Dean forced the ball home after Matt Lowe’s shot came back off the upright.
Few would deny Saints their moment in the sun, they were the better side for large parts of the final against Vanarama National League outfit Bromley.
The final got off to a frantic start and Saints had a couple of early opportunities to get their noses in front - and they should have done.
The first came following good approach play from Shane Byrne who released Lowe and he did well to hook the ball into the box where Lee Ndlovu hesitated and the chance was gone. Moments later Jimmy Armson found Lowe but his goalbound shot was blocked.
Although neither chance resulted in a goal they did settle Saints down and they began to enjoy more possession. Armson just failed to convert Byrne’s free-kick at the near post after Lowe had been fouled.
Bromley countered and Bugiel fired into the side-netting after neat play in the box from Frankie Raymond while Armson fired over in an end-to-end opening period.
But Bromley broke the deadlock in the 19th minute when Adam Mekki advanced and shrugged off a couple of challenges before the threading the ball through to Bugiel who drilled it past Danny Lewis from ten yards.
Saints looked for a quick response but Lowe’s header from Connor Franklin’s deep cross failed to seriously trouble David Gregory. At the other end, Lewis kept Saints in the tie when he got down well to keep out George Porter’s volley after the ball ran free.
Armson failed to take the opportunity after exchanging passes with Lowe before he did well to pick out Alex Gudger at the far post but he was unable to get his header on target under pressure.
Armson was at the heart of all Saints’ attacking moves as the half progressed and another defence-splitting pass released Adam Walker whose cross found Lowe in the box but his effort was deflected wide.
Saints badly needed a goal before the interval - their efforts certainly deserved one - and it so nearly arrived in stoppage-time when Bromley failed to fully clear and Byrne flashed a volley just wide from outside the box.
Bromley twice went close after the restart, captain Jack Holland’s near post header from Frankie Sutherland’s corner was saved by Lewis who then comfortably gathered Raymond’s 20 yard effort. But Saints almost equalised when the rampaging Lowe found Armson who saw his curling effort just go wide of the far post.
Manager Kevin Wilkin replaced Lee Ndlovu with the experienced Brown in a bid to get the goal they needed but saw his side almost go further behind when Sutherland’s curling effort went just wide of the far post.
Saints twice went close in as many minutes, Lowe’s cross found top scorer Aaron Williams but Gregory saved his close range effort and moments later a goalmouth scramble ended with the outstanding Armson grazing the upright.
That signalled a spell of sustained pressure from Saints with Williams twice being denied, firstly by Gregory and then having another close range effort hacked away before volleying over as Bromley struggled to cope with the onslaught.
Seldom did Bromley venture into the opposition half, having to rely on the counter-attack to threaten a Saints’ rearguard superbly marshalled by Dean.
Armson should have equalised when Glenn Walker pulled the ball back but Saints’ play-maker missed from a glorious position, his side’s best of the match. Dean’s perfectly-timed tackle denied substitute Brandon Hanlan from a rare Bromley attack but it was all Saints in the second half.
Bromley had a chance to sew it up in the closing stages when Hanlan raced clear but, with just Lewis to beat, he failed to get the better of the Saints’ keeper.
Saints twice went close in stoppage-time, Armson created the opening but Gregory beat away his shot and Byrne’s effort was hacked away by Holland. Bromley looked to have survived but in the final minute Lowe’s shot came back off the post and Dean’s effort found the back of the net.
Lewis denied Hanlan in the first minute of extra-time before Lowe’s speculative volley went wide at the other end. But the tempo dropped as both sides looked to recharge their batteries.
Bugiel headed wide in the second period and Dean thwarted Hanlan in the six-yard box. Wilkin sent on fans’ favourite Steve Diggin to try and nick the winner and he twice went close to doing just that.
And in the final minute the best player on the pitch - Armson - just failed to cap an outstanding display when he headed over from Adam Walker’s cross.
And so to penalties, Sutherland scored but Gregory saved Byrne’s spot-kick, Frankie Raymond, Hanlan and Josh Rees all scored for Bromley while Williams, Diggin and Armson kept Saints in it. But, with the chance to win it, Bugiel blazed his spot-kick over the bar.
Glenn Walker levelled it up before Holland hit the upright, leaving Brown to win it for Saints.