The final whistle brought scenes of wild jubilation to the CNG Stadium, as Harrogate Town celebrated promotion to the National League for the first time in their history,after a 3-0 victory over Brackley Town.
A weak clearance by visiting keeper, Danny Lewis, presented George Thomson with an early chance,but the keeper made amends by turning the winger’s shot for a corner.
Unfortunately,Harrogate suffered a blow in the twelfth minute when striker, Mark Beck, was stretchered from the field with a leg injury after a lengthy spell of treatment.
The Saints midfielder,Shane Byrne, had a chance to open the scoring when he found space inside the Town area, but his well hit shot was blocked by Harrogate skipper, Josh Falkingham.
Byrnes foul on Jack Emmett, led to Joe Leesley’s free kick being headed wide by John McCombe.
However,for the second game in succession, Town were awarded a penalty, when Leesley’s goalbound shot struck a hand inside the area and Dom Knowles easily beat Lewis from the spot.
James Belshaw had to make a full length save to keep out a Brackley shot,before moments later,he did well to block an Aaron Williams drive.
Knowles, then spurned a chance to make it two when an under hit back pass from Byrne left him ,one on one, with Lewis,only for him to sidefoot wide of the far post.
Undettered, with five minutes of the half left, Town scored again.
Jake Wright,who had replaced Beck,was brought down on the edge of the area.
Leesley’s free kick spiralled of the defensive wall and Warren Burrell squared for Knowles to curl the ball into the top corner of the net.
On the stroke of half time, Town suffered another blow when Wright became the second Town player to be stretchered from the field after a heavy tackle from Saints captain, Gareth Dean,which also saw the Brackley player receive a lengthy period of treatment.
Brackley had to push forward in an attempt to rescue the match and Lee Ndlovu fired over Town’s bar, before moments later,shooting at Belshaw from the edge of the area.
The visitors kept up the pressure and a right wing centre from Shepherd Murombedzi caused havoc in the home defence,but a timely tackle from sub, Lloyd Kerry, cleared the danger.
With just under twenty minutes left,Harrogate ensured their elevation to the National League with a superb goal.
A brilliant pass from Kerry sent Ryan Fallowfield down the right wing and his low pass from the byline was lashed past Lewis by the onrushing Leesley.
The Town defence with Ben Parker and Burrell outstanding, easily contained Brackley’s late attacks and a last minute breakthrough by Emmett almost made it four, but his shot for the corner of the net came back of the upright.
It just remained for the play off final trophy to be presented to Harrogate before the ecstatic, three thousand crowd,filed out to prepare for life in the National League,after wishing Brackley all the best for next Sunday’s F A Trophy final against Bromley.
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Belshaw,Fallowfield,Parker,Falkingham (c),Burrell,McCombe,Thomson,Emmett(Agnew 90),Beck(Wright 12)(Kerry 45).Knowles,Leesley.
Unused subs,Cracknell,Kitching Bookings nil Man of the Match Knowles
Scorers,Knowles 26pen,40 Leesley71 Att.3000
Lewis,Murombedzi,Franklin,Byrne,Gudger(Myles 84),Dean,G Walker,Armson,Ndlovu(Brown 66),Williams,A Walker(Lowe 58).
Unused subs, Graham,Iaciofano.
Referee L Doughty
By John Harrison.