Toolstation NCEL Division 1 Play Off Semi Final
at Birch Park, Ontario Road, Bottesford
Bottesford Town (0) 2
Wayne Graves 72, 85
Hallam FC (0) 0
Admission £5. Programme £1. Attendance 275
According to the club's records in the programme, the highest ever attendance at Bottesford was 204, who attended a game v Scarborough in September 2008.
Which doubtless means that the Poachers will now smash that record twice this week.
Leigh Herrick, Danny Gibbons, Jack Cross, Lee Ridley, Tom Johnson, Terry Barwick, Tom Spall, Martin Pembleton, Danny Boulton, Josh Nichol, Wayne Graves
Subs - Craig Bridge, Luke Robinson, Steve Ridley, Ryan Short, Matt Steeper
Dave Darwent, Elliott Simpson, Micah Bishop, Simon Mirfin, Scott Lowe, Tim Whittaker, James Reed, James Lipka, Michael Blythen, Steve Brammer, Ted Phillips
Subs - Max Pemberton, Tom Nolan, Harry Bamforth, Danny Mulooly, Connor Chappell
The Poachers had finished the season two days ago, in third place, ten points clear of Ryan Hindley's side, but that kind of thing goes out of the window in these one off winner takes all games.
Rest in peace Josh
Wayne Graves got the better of Tim Whittaker and laid the ball sideways across the face of the Hallam goal, but Dave Darwent pounced and smothered the ball at Danny Boulton's feet.
Blythen had the ball in the net for the visitors as he tangled with Jack Cross, nudged the ball forward and finished from just inside the area, but the referee decreed that Cross had been fouled and the goal was ruled out.
It was one of those 50/50 decisions that would be viewed completely differently by the respective followers of each club, but from my position of complete neutrality, I can categorically say, without fear of contradiction, that it was definitely one that I wouldn't have wanted to call.
Brammer was penalised for a hand ball as he jumped to clear the ball away from outside the Hallam goal area, but Terry Barwick drilled the ball straight at the visitors defensive wall.
The Countrymen attacked again through Brammer who picked out James Lipka whose shot was saved and Ted Phillips cleared Herrick's crossbar from the rebound.
The game moved back into Hallam's half from Herrick's goal kick and Josh Nichol tried his luck from 25 yards, but he hit his speculative effort way too high and the ball disappeared harmlessly into the car park.
Brammer was having a personal one versus one with Danny Gibbons, who battled to clear the ball from the Hallam playmaker and finally got it away at the third attempt.
On the stroke of half time, Simon Mirfin conceded a corner, which Cross swung dangerously into the visitors goalmouth, but as the ball took an awkward bounce, Darwent clutched it to his chest, with Nichol homing in.
HT: Bottesford Town 0 v Hallam FC 0
The visitors wide man was thwarted by Gibbons, but moments later he was back and beat the defender, forcing Herrick to advance from his goal to salvage the situation.
Micah Bishop's left wing cross found Whittaker, but he headed over from close range.
Herrick was in the thick of the action, when Mirfin shot straight at him and shortly afterwards the experienced keeper had to intercept a through ball from Lipka that had left Bottesford's defence flat footed.
It's a good job that these railway welders don't do anything all day and conserve their energy for playing in goal at night, isn't it!?
Herrick was slightly off centre to the left of his goal, when Blythen delivered a perfectly flighted free kick towards the opposite bottom corner, but Herrick covered the ground in a flash and pulled off a worldly to keep the ball out. James Reed tried to steer the loose ball back across the face of goal, but it was cleared for a corner. Had Blythen's free kick have gone in, with Bottesford weathering a bit of a storm, tonight's final income could've have been very different. Well. slightly different anyway, given that there were only two options, but you get my drift. That particular save was just as important as either goal.
Bottesford were stung into action by their close call and snatched the lesad from their next attack, when Tom Spall broke away on the right and drilled a low cross into the Hallam goalmouth, from which Boulton took a slight touch to divert it to Wayne Graves who buried the ball past Darwent with an emphatic shot.
Graves came close to grabbing a second goal for the home side, but Drwent was alert to his threat and grabbed the ball out of the air.
But in the 82nd minute, nobody was aware of what Graves was about to attempt, when he thumped an out of the blue long range shot, that found it's way into the back of the net via Darwent's outstretched gloves.
I heard somebody say "Goalkeeper error!" but that was disingenuous to both players, one had scored a great goal out of nothing, the other had bust a gut to prevent it.
The referee blew for full time and Bottesford had turned a backs to the wall opening 20 minutes or so of the second half, when they'd had their keeper to thank for keeping them in the game, into a winning formula.
FT: Bottesford Town 2 v Hallam 0
So, the Poachers will now face AFC Emley at Birch Park on Saturday, in the play off final, while Hallam can take consolation from the fact that they have obviously got enough quality players in their ranks to have another tilt at promotion next season.
Final word must go to the Hallam Ultras, a young body of fans who vocally got behind the south Yorkshire side all night and were magnanimous enough to give the victors a great reception at the end of the night too.