Late heartbreak for Stowmarket Town in play-off semi-final at Brentwood Town
Having got themselves level via Craig Parker's 86th minute thunderbolt Stowmarket Town were hit by an arrow to the heart four minutes into stoppage-time in tonight's play-off semi-final at Brentwood Town.
Wideman Ashley Nzala capped a lively display with a far post header that sparked the home supporters behind the goal to invade the pitch in a moment which ended the Suffolk side's promotion dream by a 2-1 scoreline.
It saw the Blues repeat their trick of hurting Stow late on with Andrew Freeman's strike four minutes from time in Saturday's final league game robbing them of home advantage.
Paul Musgrove made three changes from the weekend's line-up with Joe Jefford, Craig Parker and Josh Mayhew coming in for Josh Curry, Emmanuel Osei and Ollie Clemons.
The first sight of goal went the way of the hosts but Matt Cripps put his half volley into the back of the stand from a headed lay-off.
It was a cushioned header by Mayhew within a minute up the other end which went far closer to its target but Parker saw his volley fly the wrong side of the far post.
Brentwood began to assert themselves with Stow looking far from assured when they did get hold of the ball.
And it was hesitant defending which cost them the opening goal midway through the half. Tevan Allen could not stop Ashley Nzala getting to the left byline and despite Bullard blocking the cutback to Richardson no-one could clear the loose ball and the skipper himself fired it low into the left-hand corner.
Mayhew had a glorious chance to get his side back on level terms in the 32nd minute but he dragged his shot wide of the far post after turning Jack Humphrey well to open up the space in the area.
The Old Gold & Blacks were the ones who ended the half brightly with Ollie Brown seeing a shot blocked in the box before Lambe's follow-up effort flew well over.
They picked up where they left off at the start of the second half with Parker and Ollie Brown having shots blocked by home bodies being thrown on the line.
But it was Bradbrook who made the first save of the half, pushing away a well hit strike from former Ipswich Town professional Jai Reason as the hosts began to get themselves on top.
A breakaway move saw substitute Willie Clemons put in behind the Blues' defence but the Bermudan international sent his shot up into the night sky.
Musgrove freshened up his attacking options by bringing on both Luke Brown and Emmanuel Osei and it was a lay off to the edge of the area from the latter that set up Parker to rifle home equaliser in the 86th minute.
Stow were now the side in the ascendency with Ainsley lashing over well over as they pushed for a late winner.
It seemed the tie was destined to head to extra-time but the Blues forced a late throw-in. The long delivery caused mayhem in the visitors' penalty area and the ball was eventually swung back up to the far post where Nzala met it with a firm header to plant it into the net and spark delirium.
When the referee eventually got things back under way, following a pitch invasion from a collection of supporters behind Bradbrook's goal, there was still time for Stow to launch a final attack. But the offside flag eventually halted their hopes of adding more drama to an eventful evening.
Goalscorer Parker cut a lonely figure staring into space sitting in the centre circle long after everyone had left the pitch following the home celebrations.
With Felixstowe & Walton United having conceded two late goals at Canvey Island to lost 3-1 in the other semi-final it means it will be an all-Essex affair with the Gulls having home advantage over Brentwood in Friday evening's final.
Brentwood: Girling, Hogan, Gould, Humphrey, Cripps, Reason (Gray 80'), Harvey, Kendall, Richardson (c) (Freeman 69'), Craddock (Ogunleye 67'), Nzala.
Booked: Harvey (56'), Cripps (73'), Nzala (90+1')
Stowmarket: Bradbrook, Casement, Smith, Ainsley, Jefford, Bullard (c), O Brown (Clemons 52'), Allen (Osei 83'), Parker, Mayhew (L Brown 79'), Lambe.
Booked: Lambe (27'), Ainsley (30'), Clemons (82').
SuffolkNews Man of the Match: Ashley Nzala proved too hot to handle for Stow throughout the night but from a visiting perspective Craig Parker deserved more than he ended up getting.