Brig defeated in play-off final

Bamber Bridge's Ally Waddecar
Bamber Bridge's Ally Waddecar

Bamber Bridge had their Evo-Stik Division One promotion hopes dashed after a 3-2 defeat against Ramsbottom United in the play-off final.

Brig 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, cooly finishing sending Ramsbottom into the Evo-Stik League Premier Division.

It was a horror start for the home side at a packed out Sir Tom Finney Stadium - Ramsbottom leading goalscorer Gaskell latched on the end of a pinpoint cross and bulleted a header 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 which saw Brig break from the back with Phil Doughty, skipper Matty Kay and full-back George Bowyer linked 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.

The impressive Lawlor then saw a header flicked over the bar in a fairly contested opening half.

Brig goalkeeper Dovey kept his side in the game straight after the interval as he acrobatically tipped a Gaskell header over the bar.

The Rams controlled long periods of the second half but for all their possession, they rarely tested Dovey.

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 left unmarked was centre-half Howson who volleyed home into the bottom corner.

Brig forward Alex Taylor then saw a shot tipped round the post- then with just seconds remaining The Sir Tom Finney Stadium 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 for what the visitors did create, it gave them the lead once again.

The Rams’ broke down the pitch and played through on goal was 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 tipping a looping Taylor header over the crossbar in the dying seconds but the visitors held on to seal a place in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division.

Bamber Bridge : Dovey, Bowyer, Alexander, Lawlor, Doughty, Kay (c), Waddecar, Thompson, Johnstone (Williams 74) , Taylor, Marlow (Reid 110)

Subs not used : Buchan, Watt, Reynolds