Brentwood Town are promoted to the Ryman Premier for the first time in their recent history after an emphatic 5-0 victory in the Ryman League North play-off final over 10-man Thurrock at the Brentwood Arena.
Alex Akrofi grabbed his first non-league hat-trick of his career to send Brentwood on their way to promotion, along with goals from Robbie Rees and Sherwin Stanley.
Joint-manager Danny Dafter capped off his final match for Brentwood with one of the highlights of his career in front of 763 fans, Brentwood’s biggest competitive attendance.
Brentwood had a half chance 10 minutes in as a whipped in corner by Sam Bantick had to be palmed away by Rhys Madden for Thurrock with pressure from Tom Richardson.
Ross Wall peeled off deep and chipped the ball for Jordan Clark as Martyn Stokes slipped but his shot was tame.
‘The Blues’ had a great chance 22 minutes in after a bursting run from Robbie Rees to the edge of the box cut the ball across the outside of the box for Bantick to slice his shot just wide.
The home side created an opportunity from a goal kick as it was flicked on and Akrofi made something from nothing as he hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Sloppy defending by Thurrock allowed Bantick to pounce, dart passed a couple of players but struck a tame shot which went just wide from the edge of the box.
Thurrock almost caught Brentwood unaware as a whipped in ball was flicked goalwards by Lewwis Spence but went just over the bar.
‘The Fleet’ had an opportunity just before the break as Steve Carvel was slotted in but just as he was about to pull the trigger was tackled by a great last ditch defending by Jack Gardner.
Brentwood took the lead five minutes into the second half, as Bantick lifted the ball over the defence for Akrofi with his blistering pace to fire passed Madden, to give the hosts an all-important lead.
‘The Blues’ extended their lead nine minutes later, with a similar second goal as Bantick’s ball over the top was chased down by Akrofi his first shot was saved but tapped in the rebound into an empty net.
Shortly after the restart Clark was in on goal but fell over Bowles as the referee gave a yellow for simulation.
Akrofi was brought down for Brentwood 62 minutes in, as he hunted another ball down over the defence after getting goal side of Aaron Waters. He was sent to the stands for being the last man and Akrofi stepped up and tucked away the penalty from the spot to claim the match ball.
Brentwood extended their lead further as Rees dribbled to the edge of the box and bent a shot into the bottom, with Madden motionless.
Thurrock tried to grab a goal back as Wall’s shot on the turn was expertly saved by Bowles to maintain his clean sheet.
Brentwood grabbed a fifth as substitute Sherwin Stanley beat the offside trap and coolly slotted it passed Madden, to spark the celebrations.
Brentwood Town Lineup: Ollie Bowles, Jack Gardner, Andrew Freeman, Martyn Stokes ©, Ryan O’Rawe, James Love, Sam Bantick, Danny Dafter, Alex Akrofi (79), Tom Richardson (45), Robbie Rees (67)
Substitutes: Louis Baucutt (79), Jason Dobbs (45), Sam Cole, Christian Mbulu, Sherwin Stanley (67)
Thurrock Lineup: Rhys Madden, Gareth Madden, Lewis Clark, Aaron Waters, Remi Sutton, James Goode, Steven Carvell (67), Lewwis Spence, Joe Christou, Ross Wall, Jordan Clark (69)
Substitutes: Brad Warner (67), Robert Clark (69), Lee Rome, Leon Smith, Jordan Warren