ASHINGTON CFC manager Gary Middleton gave his players a massive end of season pat on the back after they had clinched fifth place in the STL Northern League first division.
They matched the club’s highest finish for 30 years (1981) following a merited 3-1 victory over West Auckland at Woodhorn Lane.
The win spiked West’s championship hopes with the Durham outfit needing to oust the Colliers on the day to wrap up the title.
And with the trophy stored away in a secret location at the ground, the champagne was also put on ice.
However Middleton said: “We knew it was going to be a tough game – after all, they needed three points to win the league and came at us right from the word go.
“From my vantage point, it looked like a penalty which they got early doors, but Karl (Dryden) has pulled off a great save.
“West took the lead and I thought the opportunities which they created were from mistakes by ourselves.
“But then we got back into the game with a super goal from Marc Walton – it was a great finish.”
Middleton said he reminded his players during the interval to stick to the game plan.
“The match had been very even, end to end and very open, and very much like a cup tie to be fair,” he said.
“We said to the players to keep at it – we had to keep competing because West were very direct and had lots of dangerous players out there with Matty Moffat and Michael Rae.
“We had to keep playing to our game plan and I thought we flourished in the last 20 to 25 minutes when we seemed to get Tommy English and Mark O’Dea on the ball more, which created opportunities for Walton and Jonny Godsmark.”
The boss had no hesitation in declaring that he thought his side were full value for the win.
He addeed: “West Auckland had been unlucky a few times, hitting the post late on and things haven’t dropped for them in the six yards box, but we have had games like that this season and over the 90 minutes I thought we thoroughly deserved the three points.
“My lads showed great character against a very good team in West Auckland – who are going to Wembley.”
Middleton also praised the fans of the two clubs, who made for a great atmosphere.
“The support was fantastic and the noise generated made it like a cup final for the last game of the season – but then again our fans have been great all season.
“Overall, it’s been a great campaign for the club, with our league placing coupled to the runs in the FA Cup and FA Carlsberg Vase.
“We’ve had to overcome horrendous injuries along the road which would have been a massive blow to any club, and it’s a terrific effort from all of the players that we have had the kind of season we have.”