Saints pay the penalty as Hawkins ends their promotion hopes

Brackley Town’s promotion dream is over for another season.
Brackley Town's Lee Ndlovu gets the better of Spennymoor Town's Scott Harrison. Photo: Steve Prouse NNL-190505-160723002Brackley Town's Lee Ndlovu gets the better of Spennymoor Town's Scott Harrison. Photo: Steve Prouse NNL-190505-160723002
Brackley Town's Lee Ndlovu gets the better of Spennymoor Town's Scott Harrison. Photo: Steve Prouse NNL-190505-160723002

Kevin Wilkin’s side lost 5-4 on penalties against Spennymoor Town in Sunday’s Vanarama National League North play-off semi-final. The tie ended in stalemate and Lewis Hawkins scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out after 90 minutes and extra-time failed to produce a goal.

Saints had enough chances to have comfortably won the game but it was not to be.

Saints had an early chance when Carl Baker released top scorer Lee Ndlovu whose low drive was comfortably saved by Matthew Gould. Apart from that early opportunity, chances were few and far between in an even opening period.

Gaz Dean went close with a far post header from Shane Byrne’s deep corner as Saints looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Another neat build-up ended with Matt Lowe’s cross being acrobatically volleyed over by the lively Baker.

Ndlovu’s surging run into the box was only partially halted by Scott Harrison before his low drive was deflected wide. Spennymoor failed to create a worthwhile chance but proved difficult to break down.

The visitors enjoyed their best spell in the closing stages of the first half but still didn’t carve out a single chance until their best move ended with Jamie Chandler firing over after Glen Taylor and Ryan Hall combined well. And on the stroke of halftime Hawkins went close when his speculative chip beat Danny Lewis but just cleared the bar.

In first half stoppage-time good build-up play in the box ended with Glenn Walker’s close range effort being gathered by Gould.

After the restart, both sides struggled to find any fluency and the half began the way the first period had ended. The game needed a goal and Taylor almost provided it when he headed just wide from Stephen Brogan’s free-kick.

Saints found it more difficult to impose themselves on the game in the second half and Spennymoor began to enjoy more possession in the final third. They went close again when Ramshaw’s sweet volley on the turn from Taylor’s knock down was superbly tipped around the post by Lewis.

Dean picked out Lowe who turned well in the box but his shot only found the side-netting. Saints’ best chance came when Ndlovu did well to cross the ball into the box where Baker failed to finish from a good position.

Saints twice went close in quick succession when Lowe’s cross caused confusion in the box. Baker’s shot was blocked on the line and from the rebound Lowe’s shot hit the post before being cleared.

The game opened up and Stephen Brogan’s corner scraped the bar.

Kevin Wilkin made the first move and sent on Luke Fairlamb for Myles to add more of a threat in the final third. But it was Spennymoor who had two good chances, Hall firing across the goal from a tight angle and Taylor’s header being saved by Lewis.

The impressive Ramshaw released Hall but his first touch let him down in the box while Fairlamb’s trickery saw him beat Callum Williams but his low cross only found the side-netting when he should have picked out Ndlovu or Baker in the box.

Saints went closest to breaking the deadlock in the first period of extra-time. Ndlovu’s shot on the turn flew over the bar before Baker twisted and turned on the edge of the box but his excellent effort hit the bar.

Alex Prosser was thrown on at the start of the second period but it was another substitute Adam Boyes who could have won it for Spennymoor. He raced on to Taylor’s pass but, with just Lewis to beat, he pulled his shot just wide of the far post from ten yards.

Late pressure saw Dean’s header from Byrne’s corner deflected over and from Byrne’s second delivery the Saints skipper headed over the bar. A mix-up between Gould and Brogan presented Ndlovu with the chance to win it but he could only fire into the side-netting from a tight angle.

Having squandered that chance Ndlovu then did superbly to set up Byrne in stoppage-time but he took a touch and the chance was gone. Incredibly, Saints had three more chances, Byrne and Ndlovu were foiled in a scramble in the six-yard box, Prosser blazed over the bar and in the final action Dean’s header was saved by Gould.

So to penalties, Prosser, Glenn Walker, Byrne and Omari Sterling-James all scored for Saints while Lewis saved from Ramshaw. Ndlovu had the chance to win but blazed his spot-kick over the bar, Boyes levelled it up, Fairlamb also shot over and Hawkins won it.