The changes seemed to work, as the Holy Blues started on the front foot. Clayton Donaldson a yard wide of giving Trinity a dream start inside four minutes. The veteran frontman latching onto a mis-placed Maculey Wilson back header to hook an effort narrowly wide of the goal. Hayden Cann then failed to hit the target from a well worked corner as he was well pressed by the Bridge defence. Fin Sinclair-Smith had the first couple of glimpses of goal foe the hosts, that should have served as a warning for the Holy Blues. The Bamber Bridge top scorer first seeing his shot charged down, before his second effort, from the block not troubling Matt Yates in the Gainsborough goal.

Three minutes later, the hosts had the lead when Rhys Turner raced through, and calmly lifted over Yates. A goal behind, but Trinity had three quarters of the game still to play. And if we've learnt anything this season, you don't write off a Neal Bishop side; they weren't about to disappoint. Two former Sheffield Wednesday youngsters combined as Liam Waldock teed up Preston, who found the target, but saw his effort comfortable gathered by Pradic before Waldock's goalbound effort was blocked by Nathan Pond.

As the half wore on, Bish's Blues again started to grow back into the game, and a decent little spell of possession led to the equaliser, though it came as rather something out of nothing. With very little backlift, youngster Curtis Durose let fly from 40 yards with a low, driven missile, that caught Pradic off guard, and the Blues were level!

Half time: Bamber Bridge 1 Gainsborough Trinity 1

Less than fifteen minutes into the second half, the hosts invited the Trinity press, and were reduced to ten men when Nathan Pond was shown a straight red card, for a professional foul on Liam Waldock. Pond had only just returned to the Bridge starting line up having completed his previous four match ban on Saturday gone, the result of two previous red cards this season.

Fine margins saw the Holy Blues awarded a freekick right on the edge of the box, as opposed to a spot kick from twelve. The difference almost didn't matter though, but for fine margins. Preston stepped up to beat Pradic's wall, but not the post. His thumping effort cannoning back off the upright, the keeper well beaten!

The hosts sacrificed Rowan Roache as they brought on Chris Churchman at full back. Matt Thomson moving to centre back to partner Maculey Wilson. But as the hosts came to terms with the numerical disadvantage, Liam Waldock found himself through on goal. One on one, Waldock saw his attempt brilliantly blocked by the on loan Preston North End goalkeeper. Schmeichel like, Pradic spread himself at the feet of Waldock to keep his side in the game.

Looking to change the shape of the visitors, and inject some added energy to proceedings, Bishop introduced Keto (for young Bailey Conway) and Munakandafa for Harry Lewis. And it was the Notts County loanee who made a telling impact on the game. He just wasn't able to find the breakthrough for the Blues. First his range finder failed to trouble the home custodian, before he flashed a yard wide following a Gainsborough corner. Pradic rooted to the spot. His third, forcing quick feet and a flying tip over the top with the Holy Blues knocking, without any joy. Cann planting a header wide from Preston's resultant corner.

Bamber Bridge were becoming leggy, but were resiliently staying in the game, as they took the game to Extra Time. The Holy Blues should have done enough to win the game in normal time, but it wasn't to be, and Bish's boys didn't do enough in half an hour of additional time as the game edged towards the lottery that is a penalty shootout.

With the home side stepping up to the spot first, despite successful Donaldson, Waldock and Preston spot kicks, Pradic guessed right to brilliantly save skipper Isaac Rice's penalty before Brig's centre back, and captain, Maculey Wilson stepped up to score the decisive fifth penalty. And complete the perfect five from five. Pradic the hero for the hosts, setting up the Bank Holiday Monday Play-Off Final between second and third placed sides, Warrington Town and Bamber Bridge, at Cantilever Park.

Good luck to tonight's victors, Jamie Milligan and his Bamber Bridge side in the final on Monday. There will likely be some tired legs out there having played an hour with ten men, but to be defeated by the winners and the side to gain promotion to the National League North. It might, just might, make things slightly easier to take.

Gutted to ultimately lose out in that fashion, but profoundly proud of the achievements of this group, that have once again got the town believing, have once again got the people of Gainsborough talking about their team. 150 years, not out. The pain this evening brings, and it will sting, needs to be harnessed, and used as the motivation to go again. Bounce, and bounce higher. Together, with the people of Gainsborough pulling together, in the right direction, the future is bright. The future is blue, Gainsborough Trinity blue.

The Teams

Bamber Bridge: James Pradic, Matthew Thomson, Aaron Skinner, Luke Mariette, Nathan Pond, Macauley Wilson, Isaac Sinclair, Rowan Roache, Rhys Turner, Paul Dawson, Fin Sinclair-Smith, Joseph Robbins, Christopher Churchman, Danny Forbes, Connor Stanley, Finlay Cross-Adair.

Gainsborough Trinity: Matt Yates, Hayden Cann, Joseph West, Bailey Conway (Prosper Keto 70), Isasc Rice, Dylan Cogill, Fraser Preston, Curtis Durose (Andrew Wright 115), Clayton Donaldson, Liam Waldock, Harry Lewis (Luther Munakandafa 74). Subs not used: Mo Gashi and George Hornshaw.

Gainsborough goal: Curtis Durose 42
Gainsborough bookings: Harry Lewis and Fraser Preston
Penalties: Bamber Bridge win 5-3 on penalties
Referee: Declan Brown

Match Report by Rob Hughes (@AATMMedia)
Photos by Alun Roberts (@AlunInHope)