A late equaliser meant the Dabbers finished the 2021/22 season with a 1-1 draw away at Bamber Bridge.

The home side had an outside chance at claiming a play-off space, but for that to happen they had to win the game.

Their plans were almost in tatters in the first 2 minutes, as an early Dabbers corner was headed just wide by Joel Stair.

Jake Bickerstaff ran himself into the ground as he has done throughout his loan spell, and that running earned him an opportunity with a shot dragged wide 15 minutes in.

A Joe Robbins header didn’t really test James Aspinall in the Bamber Bridge goal, before the home side sprung into life just short of the half hour.

A whipped cross was flicked onto the crossbar by the head of Fin Sinclair-Smith with Matty Gould well beaten, it was the first attack of any note from Brig and it nearly gave them the lead.

Then, a little stumble at the back let in Jake Thompson but Gould was on his toes to block another great chance.

Before the break, it was the Dabbers’ turn to hit the woodwork. Sean Cooke’s absence meant it was Matt Bell on set-piece duty, and he curled a terrific free-kick off the right hand post and saw it bounce across the face of goal and away. So goalless at the break but both teams had come mighty close.

Early in the second half, the Dabbers struck first. Having not heeded the warning from the first half, Joel Stair was given free reign to power the Dabbers ahead with a strong header from another great Bell delivery. That was Stair’s 7th goal of the season, making him third top scorer at the club for this term.

The vastly experienced Mark Yeates tried to use the wind to his advantage for Bamber Bridge, sending a corner high and looping towards goal with the wind, but Matty Gould was alert to palm it over.

Both Joe Robbins and Jamie Morgan made their Dabbers’ farewells when substituted off to great receptions from the travelling supporters.

Bickerstaff forced Aspinall to save with his feet as the Dabbers looked to double the lead.

Then, there was more woodwork struck, a low free kick flicked onto the post by big Nathan Pond who had been thrown up front as things were starting to get desperate for the home side.

But, as news started to come through that play-off rivals Scarborough and Matlock were both winning their games, the home crowd had to accept that it wasn’t going to be for them this season.

But they still had pride to play for, and after another post was struck from a cross, Bamber Bridge did get something from the game.

In the last minute of normal time, Yeates slung in another looping corner, and this time it was measured perfectly as it dropped into the top corner past Gould. Amazingly, that was the third goal the Dabbers had conceded direct from a corner this season, when teams can quite easily go several years without that happening at all.

Bamber Bridge pushed for a winner, and that nearly gave the Dabbers the chance to win it on the break. Bickerstaff charged away with help from sub Akiel Raffie, but Aspinall stood strong to mean it finished all square.

So, a 13th place finish on 52 points for the Dabbers, an outstanding second half of the season pulling the club away from the danger that was certainly there in the winter. A combination of smart recruitment and good coaching means Dabbers supporters can be optimistic about what’s possible when it all starts again in August.

Teams

Bamber Bridge: James Aspinall, Aaron Skinner, Matthew Thomson, Daniel Martin (Jake Daniels, 76), Macauley Wilson, Nathan Pond, Jake Thompson (Rhys Turner, 57), Paul Dawson, Isaac Sinclair (Joe Strawn, 86), Mark Yeates, Fin Sinclair-Smith

Subs not used: Craig Carney, Christopher Churchman

Goal: Yeates (90)

Nantwich Town: Matty Gould, Joel Stair, Matty Devine, Troy Bourne, Josh Langley, Luke Nock, Jamie Morgan (Akiel Raffie, 75), Joe Robbins (Connor Heath, 66), Jake Bickerstaff, Matt Bell, Joe Malkin (Jon Moran, 85)

Subs not used: Dan Cockerline, Ollie Hawkins

Goal: Stair (50)

Attendance: 634