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Harrogate Take Their Place In the National League

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In front of a bumper 3,000 crowd at the CNG Stadium, Harrogate Town have finally gained a place in the Vanarama National League after winning the National League North Promotion Final against Brackley Town on Sunday afternoon.

Harrogate finished second in the regular season, five points in front of Brackley, who ended up in third spot but who also have a first-ever Buildbase FA Trophy Final to look forward to on May 20th.

And it was the Northamptonshire club`s Danny Lewis who was the first goalkeeper to be called into action in the 6th minute when Dominic Knowles` flick-on was collected by George Thomson, whose shot was turned behind by the former Kidderminster Harriers` number one.

But Harrogate suffered a blow in the 12th minute when striker Mark Beck had to be carried off on a stretcher after suffering an injury and was replaced by Jake Wright.

The hosts had a let off in the 19th minute when skipper Josh Falkingham was in the right place at the right time to head Alex Gudger`s effort off the line.

However, 6 minutes later, Harrogate broke the deadlock when the referee awarded a soft-looking penalty for handball and Knowles coolly slotted home the resulting spot-kick.

Simon Weaver`s side almost doubled their advantage on 34 minutes when
Knowles capitalised on a defensive mistake and went through on goal but dragged his effort wide of Lewis` post.

But 6 minutes later, Harrogate did make it 2-0 when Brackley failed to deal with Joe Leesley`s free-kick and the ball fell kindly to Knowles, who beat Lewis from close range to notch his 9th goal in three games.

In first half injury-time, Harrogate suffered another injury blow when Jake Wright, who had come on early to replace Beck, was also forced off on a stretcher and Lloyd Kerry came on in his place.

Nine minutes into the second half, Lee Ndlovu had a great chance to pull one back for the visitors` but he couldn’t keep his effort down and it sailed over James Belshaw’s goal.

Three minutes later, Harrogate came close to making it 3-0 when Leesley picked out Thomson, who found himself free at the far lost, but his header was deflected wide of Lewis` post.

Brackley needed a goal soon and they almost succeeded on the hour-mark when Shepherd Murombedzi whipped in a dangerous cross and after a mass scramble in the Town box, sub Lloyd Kerry made a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Ndlovu.

The game was virtually put to bed by the hosts on 71 minutes though when Ryan Fallowfield`s cross found Leesley, who found the bottom corner of the net to make it 3-0.

Five minutes from time Jack Emmett almost added a fourth for Harrogate, but his effort cannoned back off the post.

But a fourth goal would have cruel on a Brackley side who competed well throughout and who, despite this loss, have enjoyed a terrific season which could get even better later this month.

As for Harrogate, the decision to turn full-time has certainly paid dividends as they will be plying their trade at the top level of non-League football next season.


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