On the perfect night for football the scene was set for a tense, and indeed emotional, playoff semi-final between two teams who had clashed just a week ago with the visitors prevailing on that occasion.
The occasion began with a heartfelt speech from Tom Canning (which you can listen to below) in memory of his good friend Darrell ‘Duds’ Freeland, who had sadly passed away at the weekend, followed by a minute of applause to celebrate his life, and his dedication to The Robins over the years.
When the game started it was the visitors who had the initial opportunity when some nervy defensive play allowed Tinashe Nkoma to find Elijah Simpson in the middle, but he couldn’t make the most of that opportunity.
Joe Grant and Kensley Maloney combined to create half chances for each other, but they were snuffed out, before Watson failed to control the ball when well placed at the other end.
The Robins first real chance came when Maloney crossed into the box, but Adam Cornell couldn’t get his header on target.
Mark Scott was then called into action when Aaron Watson and Simpson cleverly combined to allow Nkoma a shot on goal, and Simpson headed the resulting corner kick over the bar.
The deadlock was broken on the 33rd minute when Cornell passed to Liam Ferdinand and they both watch as his shot took a huge deflection which caused it to loop over the helpless Gary Ross into the back of the net.
Carl Davies then had a chance from Seb Bowerman’s free kick, but his header landed tamely in Ross’s welcoming hands.
However on the 39th minute there was nothing fortuitous about the way that the home side extended their lead because Grant’s cross in from the right was firmly headed home by Cornell!
Although Westfield had a couple of half chances for Nkoma and Julius Mngadi, Bracknell began to play with a swagger towards the end of the first half as they passed the ball cleanly and crisply between their players.
On the 43rd minute a section of the crowd began to chant and clap again in tribute to their, family member, friend and fellow fan which continued through until half time. (My voice is still a bit croaky this morning as it happens!)
Half time: Bracknell Town 2 – 0 Westfield
Then if there is such a thing as kharma then surely there was a sign of it when TC won the 50/50 draw for the first time in his life, as if Duds had picked the ticket himself, when the attendance was a massive 564!
Westfield made a change at half time bringing Kadeem Ajeon on in place of George Frith, and it was certainly the visitors who came out with more fire in their belly with both Harry Carter and Watson having opportunities early in the second half.
Mind you Ross had to be at his very best to make a double save from Ferdinand and Grant, before Bowerman fired over when the ball bounced back to him.
Maloney cut back inside and was tripped on the edge area allowing Joel Jacobs to fire in a free kick which was saved by Ross.
Scott had to be alive to come off his line to clear a weak back pass, and then two substitutes combined when Dylan Cascoe sent a ball across the six yard box but Ajeon couldn’t get a touch on it.
Ross was forced to punch a low Grant cross away from his goal and it landed with one of his players who took the chance to clear it.
A lapse in concentration saw a sloppy pass allowed Westfield to break away and the attack ended with Watson dinking the ball over Scott to reduce the deficit on the 81st minute.
Suddenly what had seemed like a comfortable passage to the playoff final became anything but, as Watson got into the area again causing panic, Cascoe hit a low ball into the area which needed to be dabbed clear, and Carter blasted over from distance.
The home side had some chances to put the tie to bed when Ferdinand & Grant broke away to be through on goal, but Ross thwarted them to keep things on a nervy edge.
Finally the relief of home supporters the referee put the whistle to his lips, and blew for full time meaning that Bracknell Town will host Cheshunt at Larges Lane as both sides look to gain promotion.
Full time: Bracknell Town 2 – 1 Westfield
Bracknell Town: Scott, Jacobs, Parsons, Day, Bayley, Davies, Grant, Maloney, Cornell (Brown), Ferdinand & Bowerman (Hancock). Unused Subs: Artwell, Gater & Grace.
Westfield: Ross, Dean, Mngadi, Carter, Haydon, Steer, Nkoma (Cascoe), Ujaki, Simpson (Purdy), Frith (Ajeon) & Watson. Unused Subs: Downey & Burnham.