Darlington 2 Bamber Bridge 0
We’ve done it – we’ve won a play off final at last!
It took some doing though, because Bamber Bridge were on top in the first half, but two goals in four minutes earned us a place in the premier division and our second promotion in three years.
As in our semi final win over Spennymoor, there was plenty of tension around Heritage Park, because Quakers were second best to the visitors against the wind in the first half.
But goals by the league’s leading scorer, Nathan Cartman, and the club’s top scorer, Graeme Armstrong, put us alongside Whitby and Blyth next season.
“We struggled against the wind a little bit in the first half, and we only managed to get going when we won a corner early in the second half,” said manager Martin Gray.
“I was delighted for Nathan Cartman when he scored. He came into the club and was under pressure to score goals – and he delivered. He scored one and set up another.
“I thought our setpieces were fantastic, as they have been all the way through the season. We managed to get ourselves going in the second half, and take control.
“The players have been fantastic all the way through the season. They have really bought in to what we’re trying to do at the club. The togetherness at the club is amazing, all the way through from players, the coaching team, the directors and the fans. This promotion is for everybody. We’ll be giving the next league a right good go.”
But it nearly didn’t happen for Quakers, as Brig were the better side in the first half but couldn’t break through. Brig nearly scored in the first minute, when a free kick from the right was nodded down for Matt Lawlor to hit a first time left foot shot just wide from the edge of the box.
Quakers nearly gifted Brig the lead when Gary Brown and keeper Bell, making his first league appearance of the season, hesitated over a high ball forward on the edge of the box, allowing striker Alistair Waddecar to nip in, but Bell quickly recovered and blocked his shot.
Quakers had their first chance on 21 minutes when Brown hoisted a cross into the penalty area from the right that Alan White nodded down for Nathan Cartman to hit an overhead kick that was going into the top corner until Lee Dovey touched it over the bar.
Quakers should have scored from Adam Mitchell’s inswinging corner, but Terry Galbraith headed wide from just a few yards out.
Brig weren’t afraid to push men forward, and Paul McKenna latched on to a headed clearance just outside the area, and he hit a left foot shot that bobbled nastily in front of Bell, who managed to push the ball around the post.
Quakers were much better in the second half, and took the lead on 51 minutes when White flicked on a long throw by Brown, and poacher Nathan Cartman turned the ball in at the far post.
Quakers went further ahead four minutes later. Muscat was booked for a late challenge on Thompson, and Galbraith chipped the ball to the far post where Cartman nodded it back for Armstrong to nod home.
Cartman nearly got a third when he picked the ball up outside the box, ran forward and curled a 20 yarder over Dovey, but unfortunately the ball struck the crossbar.
Veteran defender White nearly scored a memorable goal when he won the ball just outside the centre circle, beat two men, and saw his left foot shot saved at full stretch by the keeper.
Despite the introduction by the visitors of former Preston and Manchester City striker Jon Macken, Quakers kept firm control, and in the last minute Dovey was dismissed for flattening Armstrong with a late challenge.
“It’s a great finish to the season,” said Gray, “and now we can look forward to playing in the premier division at our new ground.”