Hebburn Town’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion on Tuesday as they went out on penalties against Long Eaton United following a 2-2 draw which had everything.
Jamie Walker’s brace gave the visitors a 2-0 lead at the break, following strikes in the 14th and 45th minutes, before Hebburn pulled off an improbable second-half comeback.
Robbie Spence gave the Hornets a fighting chance with his 66th minute effort, while player/manager Daniel Moore in the dying moments of the regular 90 minutes inspired an equaliser which gave the 600-strong crowd every chance to dream.
Extra time was quiet before penalties settled things, meaning Hebburn must now prepare for their third season in the Northern Premier League East Division.
Walker opened the scoring when Luke Cox got on to the end of Sam Parker’s free-kick, while a tussle in the box set the ball freely for him to tap the ball beyond keeper Shaun Newbrook.
Newbrook was called into action just a few minutes later as Walker tested the shot stopper from range with another free kick but this time it was comfortably held.
That isn’t to say Hebburn didn’t have chances. Olly Martin drove down the left wing to find Amar Purewal who managed to float a cross towards Joe Walton from outside the box.
He tried a curler from distance but Durrant managed to get to it – it would have been a goal worth celebrating.
Tom Devitt, this time on the right of the pitch, angled his cross towards Purewal who was left in the box, but Durrant again kept his composure and won a duel between the pair, grabbing the ball away from the Hebburn forward.
Purewal had a further chance to equalise things before Long Eaton, and Walker, bagged their second. Robbie Spence’s through ball met Purewal who got a head to it, but his effort went past the far post.
It was close enough though that some fans thought he had scored for a split moment!
Walker’s second goal was stunning: he went past Spence who was on the edge of the 18-yard box, but his strike managed to bounce past every defender who was near to it, and from an uncomfortable angle too.
None of the players could do anything about that, and Hebburn’s position at half-time seemed bleak.
But the second half was dominated by the hosts who used the first-half to fire themselves up.
Spence got one back when a delivery into the box found him, and with nobody but Durrant to pass he gently tapped it into the back of the net.
And sustained pressure eventually forced an equaliser, in virtually the last kick of the match.
Moore had substituted himself on 10 minutes prior and made himself the hero, albeit until penalties changed things, when he got a touch in the box in midst of a real scramble.
He remained calm and composed, and flicked the ball into the near post: the ground seemed electric at that point even if the game was to die down a little in extra time.
Penalties had to settle the two sides. Jake Hackett and Liam Henderson both scored for the hosts while Long Eaton missed their first.
Fortunes turned, however, when the next three Hebburn penalties were missed and the visitors had enough in them to make the final and win the shoot-out.
They will face Stockton Town on Saturday for the final promotion spot, while Hebburn have a cup final next week in the Durham Challenge Cup to look forward to, before another season at step 4.