Warrington Town have been promoted to the National League North after a dramatic play-off final win over Bamber Bridge.
Isaac Buckley-Ricketts was the hero with the scruffiest of 90th minute winners after the visitors had frustrated the home side and stopped them from playing the flowing football that fired them through Tuesday’s semi-final.
It looked like history would cruelly repeat itself when just like last year, the Yellows had a man sent off, when Josh Amis was shown the red card following an altercation with Macauley Wilson.
But they couldn’t be denied a deserved promotion having finished second in the league and reached a third consecutive play-off final, with substitute Buckley-Ricketts scrambling home Jay Harris’ mishit shot from a Dec Walker long throw.
The entire game was cagey and played with a nervous tension befitting the gravity of the reward, with neither side having ever played beyond this level before.
The Yellows had won the league fixture between the two sides 1-0 after playing the entire game with 90 minutes, and the man involved in that red card incident, Paul Dawson headed well over the bar for the only chance of the opening quarter.
Matty McDonald had Warrington’s first sight of goal, lofting a shot that dropped agonisingly wide of Felix Goddard’s far post.
Tony Thompson denied Rhys Turner, who might have had a penalty for a pull by Andy White, one-on-one before Goddard did the same at the other end to deny Luke Duffy.
But there wasn’t much in the way of chances, instead the game was regularly broken up by niggly fouls and bookings, sometimes encouraged by opposition players.
Hopes that the game would open up in the second half proved fruitless, and it appeared the game was heading for extra time and penalties until a dramatic last 10 minutes.
The Yellows thought their dreams were in tatters when Amis was shown a straight red card for lashing out at Wilson as they waited for a corner to come in, and the 10 men spent a spell with backs against the wall.
But in the final minute of the 90, back-to-back long throws from Walker saw Goddard save well from Tom Hannigan, and then when the second was only half cleared, Harris’ mishit shot was bundled in by Buckley-Ricketts.
There was still added time to play, though Bamber Bridge were also reduced to 10 men when the otherwise excellent Aaron Skinner was sent off for a cynical trip on Bohan Dixon.
But Warrington Town held on to secure promotion to the sixth tier of English football.
Warrington Town: Thompson, Walker, White, Hannigan, Gumbs, Harris, Woods (Buckley-Ricketts), McDonald (Williams), Amis, Dixon, Duffy (Duggan). Unused subs: Buckley. Mols.
Bamber Bridge: Goddard, Thomson (Stanley), Skinner, Mariette, Churchman (Stanley), Wilson, Sinclair, Roache, Turner (Forbes), Dawson, Sinclair-Smith. Unused subs: Robbins, Pradic.
Winning 50/50 draw number: 13623