Corinthian-Casuals’ promotion bid fell at the very last hurdle as they lost 5-4 on penalties to Dorking Wanderers in the Ryman League Division One South Playoff Final on Saturday.
However, Manager James Bracken ‘honestly believes’ his side are good enough to win the league next season.
The sides couldn’t be separated in a goalless 120 minutes of football, played in-front of a capacity crowd at Dorking’s Westhumble ground in the division’s season finale.
Casuals were dominant for the bulk of the match and Dorking had goalkeeper Slavomir Huk to thank for keeping the home side in the game. Making a string of outstanding saves, even Dorking Wanderers Manager, Marc White described their performance as ‘a one-man team’.
Corinth’s Shaun Okojie and Jack Strange went closest for the visitors in the first half with Huk making fine saves to prevent the deadlock being broken. The second half continued in similar vein as Josh Gallagher was denied twice in quick succession by the Wanderer’s stopper.
Dorking mustered their first shot on target in extra-time and despite tiring legs, Casuals’ substitute Warren Morgan wowed the crowd with a bursting run through the defence - his effort finally denied by the Wanderer’s number one. The tie, and promotion to the Ryman League Premier Division was to be decided from the penalty spot.
Whilst Casuals’ captain and goalkeeper Danny Bracken both scored and saved a penalty, Warren Morgan and Dave Hodges’ kicks were saved by the excellent Huk.
It was a bitter defeat for Bracken’s side who had won the last nine games to reach this stage, ending the season on a club record 93 points with 99 goals scored.
“One game to decide a whole season is always hard in the first place but to go out on penalties is even harsher”, said Boss Bracken after the match.
“We were nervous for the first fifteen minutes but we settled the nerves. Understandably, both sides looked a bit slow but once we calmed down, everyone to a man has been superb. We’ve taken them apart time and time again. We were too fit, too strong, too quick and created so many chances.
“I think that’s what makes it harder to swallow. If we came here and got rolled over 2-0 or 3-0 by a better team, you can say fair play and we’d have to look at ourselves. After today, we couldn’t do any of that.
“We just didn’t get the goal that all our play and performance warranted.
“Fair play to their keeper. He was outstanding.
“We’re bitterly disappointed and it’ll take a week or two for this to sink in and start to think about getting over it. It’s a tough one.
“How do we bounce back? Last year when we had the playoffs snatched from us following the points deduction, it would’ve been easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves and just say, ‘what’s the point?’
“We didn’t. we came back better, stronger, evolved.
“Next year, I’m hoping everyone stays here because I believe if they do, I think we can win this league. I honestly believe that. We’ve got something special here.”
“If it doesn’t work out that way then we’ll evolve again and I’ll bring in what I need to be successful.
“I’m not here to come second. I’m not here to be an also-ran… I’m here to win.”