Brackley Town’s hopes of a place in next season’s National League were ended by a penalty shootout defeat to Gateshead in the expanded play-offs.

In a match behind closed doors at St James Park, Gateshead keeper Brad James was the match decider, making 3 penalty saves as the visitors won 6-5 after a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes.

The result means a further season in the National League North for the Northamptonshire side, who will reflect on how to progress from here, while Gateshead will take on Boston United in the next stage of the competition.

Brackley’s Shane Byrne had scored a sensational equaliser in normal time, with the midfielder lashing home straight from kick-off after Gateshead had taken the lead through Jake Cooper shortly before half-time.

With the regular season compromised by the coronavirus crisis, the points per game method was used to finish the National League North season, with the expanded play-off format debuted last season used to settle the second promotion spot to the full National League.

This pitted a Brackley team who finished 4th in the PPG table against a Gateshead side that came 8th.

Much of the drama would come in the final stages of the first half, as Gateshead missed a penalty, scored the opener and then conceded a sensational Brackley equaliser.

Before then, two decent chances had fallen for the home side, as James Armson had a low shot saved and Lee Ndlovu headed a cross over.

Gateshead’s penalty was given just after the half-hour, with the referee ruling Carl Baker fouled Alex Nicholson.

But from 12 yards, Brackley goalkeeper Danny Lewis responded, denying Jordan Preston’s spot-kick.

This ended up turning the game in favour of the side from the North East, as Gateshead began to see more of the ball and they opened the scoring in first half stoppage time, with Cooper heading in a free-kick.

Brackley’s response was as immediate as it was extraordinary. The kick-off was taken and was rolled back to Byrne, who chose to lash a 50 yard hit that crashed into the back of the Gateshead net.

The second half was a more unremarkable contest, as while there were a few moments where one of the two sides could break through, the general game was played in the middle of the park.

It ultimately lead to penalties to decide the game. In the regulation 5, both sides missed one of their penalty, while both teams also missed their 6th kicks. After 7 each, the tie was poised at 5-5 when Elliot Forbes dispatched his effort and Ellis Myles saw his saved by James in the Gateshead goal, deciding the contest there and then.