Warrington Town made it to the Northern Premier League play-off final with a breathtaking penalty shootout victory over South Shields.
Goalkeeper Dan Atherton was the hero, saving two spot-kicks, as the Yellows beat Shields in the play-offs for the second full season running.
Jordan Buckley had earlier cancelled out Darius Osei’s opener, with nothing to separate the two sides in 120 minutes, it went to penalties and the Yellows prevailed 6-5 in the shootout.
It was a brilliant game of football that started with a quick tempo that remained for large parts of the game.
The Yellows had a half-chance inside five minutes when from a short corner, Sean Williams and Jay Harris worked it through for Buckley, who didn’t get hold of his shot from a good position.
Shields had the ball in the net after eight minutes, but JJ Hooper was judged to have been offside when heading home Darius Osei’s cross.
They did break the deadlock in the 19th minute though, with the same two players involved.
Will McGowan found space behind the front two and slid the ball through for Hooper, who saw his shot well saved by the legs of Atherton. The Yellows couldn’t clear the ball though and Blair Adams fired back in for Osei, who turned sharply and fired home.
The game continued to swing either way with no clear cut chances and half time came at a good time.
Warrington came out with purpose and dominated the early exchanges of the second half and were rewarded with an equaliser.
A ball forward by Williams was headed back by defender Jon Shaw, but fell short of goalkeeper Myles Boney and Buckley nipped in, won the challenge and slid the ball in to the empty net.
Although the Yellows did sit back for a spell after the goal, they were largely the better team for the rest of the match and extra time.
On the 70 minute mark, Bohan Dixon won a free-kick 25 yards out and Williams stepped up, hit it well and Boney kept it out with a combination of hand and post.
Striker Buckley had ran himself to the ground when he was brought off for Isaac Buckley-Ricketts five minutes from time, and the game went in to extra time.
The best chance of the first half of the additional period fell to Buckley-Ricketts, who fired a shot agonisingly wide after good work by Matt Regan and Eddie Clarke down the left.
In the 113th minute, Boney was at his best to keep out an Evan Gumbs header from a Williams free-kick, and Gumbs then headed just wide from the resulting corner.
Shields’ best chance was to follow, but Osei found Atherton in fine form, the ‘keeper getting down to save at point blank range to his right.
So it went to penalties, and after the first four each were scored, Mark Roberts had his effort saved well by Boney.
That meant Will Jenkins had the chance to win the game, but he was denied by Atherton.
Gumbs kept his cool to put the Yellows 6-5 ahead, and then Atherton saved a second successive penalty to deny Jordan Hunter and earn the victory.
It means Warrington Town will travel to Scarborough Athletic for the play-off final and promotion to National League North for the winners, on Monday May 2.
South Shields: Boney, Hunter, Adams, Shaw, Morse, Bodenham, Wilding, Briggs, Hooper, McGowan, Osei. Unused: Tee, Kempster.
Warrington Town: Atherton, Duggan, Regan, Harris, Roberts, Gumbs, Buckley (Buckley-Ricketts), Williams, Amis (Mackreth (Mols)), Dixon, Clarke. Unused subs: Duffy, Hough.
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