Warrington Town 0 Bamber Bridge 1
WARRINGTON Town's promotion dream is over after a play-off defeat to Bamber Bridge on Tuesday night.
Right winger Alistair Waddecar, a constant menace to the Town defence throughout the game, scored the only goal of the game early in the second half to secure the win for the visitors in front of a crowd of 477 at the HG Driver Recruitment Stadium.
It was a sad way to end what has been a fantastic season for Town, who finished third in the league table to secure a first ever trip to the divisional play-offs, but it will be Bamber Bridge who go on to face either Darlington or Ramsbottom in the play-off final.
Town started with a quick tempo, and should have taken the lead inside 15 minutes through Carlos Meakin. Ben Wharton worked hard down the right and carried the ball along the dead ball line, before pulling back for the midfielder, in for the not-fully fit Conor Roberts, who struck the ball well over the bar.
It was the sort of start that home fans had become accustomed to during the unbeaten run prior to Christmas, but the telling difference in this one was the lack of a goal.
The visitors started to settle in to the game, and twice both Craig Robinson and Phil Davies had to come to Town's rescue in the goalmouth.
Wharton was battling against the firm centre defensive partnership of Phil Doughty and Matt Lawler at the back for Brig, and a one-two with Chris Gahgan, saw him with a glimpse of goal. The number nine took it inside the box but fluffed his lines when trying to loft it over the lively Lee Dovey in the Brig goal.
Meakin then saw a volley deflected wide, after a Scott Metcalfe free-kick wasn't fully cleared, but as the first half went on, Town looked less likely to score, and you felt they might pay for that.
However, it was only a fine point blank save from Dovey that kept the game scoreless at the break, getting down quickly to Metcalfe's shot after Gahgan and Meakin had linked up well down the right.
Having weathered the first half storm, Brig started the second half in brisk fashion, setting a quick tempo, much as their opponents had in the first half.
The difference was they got the all important goal. Waddecar, who tormented David Thompson at left-back for Town, cut in and fired a well struck shot past Josh Ollerenshaw for an invaluable 1-0 lead on 49 minutes.
That upset the Town game plan, and it took them the best part of 20 minutes to settle back in to the game.
They were, in fact, lucky not to be out of it altogether on 65 minutes, when Waddecar's pace got him the wrong side of Thompson, and when there was a tangle of legs in the box, the referee pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Greg Johnstone for Brig, but he saw his penalty saved well by Ollerenshaw.
Unfortunately, it didn't seem to boost the home side, and barely minutes later, Ollerenshaw had to pull off another good save to prevent Chris Marlow from making it two.
As time wore on, Town were struggling to get hold of the ball, let alone create any clear cut chances, despite the presence of Aaron Bowen and Ash Ruane, both on as second half substitutes.
The task was made a little bit harder with seven minutes left, when Thompson was handed a second yellow card by the referee, to end his misery, and Metcalfe, also playing down that side, was also perhaps fortunate to stay on the field after a couple of fouls while booked.
The timing of the goal seemed to have been the sucker punch for Town, who despite the leadership of Craig Robinson, didn't seem to settle in the second half.
Their only chance of note late on was a 25-yard free kick by Conor Roberts, whipped just over the bar after Ruane had been brought down by Lawler.
Brig almost rubbed salt in the wounds in injury time, when Curtis Thompson fired just wide on the counter attack, but it mattered not, as they celebrated a 1-0 win and a place in the promotion play-off final on Saturday.
Warrington Ollerenshaw, Davies, Thompson, Meakin, McCarten, Robinson, Gahgan (Ruane), Mannix (Roberts), Wharton (Bowen), Kilheeney, Metcalfe. Subs not used Dawson, Corrigan.
Bamber Bridge Dovey, Bowyer, Alexander, Lawler, Doughty, Kay, Waddecar, Thompson, Johnstone, Taylor, Marlow. Subs not used Williams, Reid, Buchan, Watt, Reynold.