SPENNYMOOR TOWN manager Jason Ainsley believes that this season’s Ebac Northern League title win has been the hardest yet for the victorious Moors.
Ainsley has guided the Moors to four titles in the last five years – if it wasn’t for Darlington last season it would surely have been a straight five – but he says that the competition for this season’s championship has been the hardest yet, especially with promotion also at stake.
“I think this one has been the toughest by far,” he said.
“Last season, Darlington raised the standard, and everyone has been trying to reach it. There were four or five clubs in the title race – two months ago it was very difficult to predict who would win the league.
“We lost in the Vase to Newcastle Benfield, and since then we’ve shown a lot of resilience by going 22 games unbeaten, when we could have gone the other way. We took a knock, but we kicked straight back in.”
Ainsley is now part of a rare group that has played in and managed a promotion-winning team, and he said: “I’m delighted that we’ve won promotion, because that aim also added to the expectation with Celtic Nation also applying. It was critical to finish above them.
“The players have been magnificent. They have done everything that was asked of them. We’ll be sitting down with them now and discussing next season. For them to lose only three league games all season is a massive achievement – Darlington lost four last season.”
Moors’ promotion is expected to be ratified by the FA Leagues committee, and they will play in the Evo-Stik First Division North next season – the same league that they left in a less than graceful fashion as Spennymoor United nine years ago.
Fifth-placed Guisborough showed why they are possible title contenders next season by playing some comfortablelooking football after Moors’ skipper Chris Mason headed against the post from a free kick. Danny Johnson had a left-foot shot pushed around the post by Moors keeper Kyle Hayes, and then he set up Callum Martin with a pull back and he forced a full-length save out of Hayes.
The game swung in Moors’ favour when the pacey Andy Johnson was about to burst clear on 37 minutes, but Guisborough defender Leon Carling pulled him back and was shown a red card.
After Guisborough’s protests died down, midfielder Keith Graydon, a player for the big occasion, produced a typical moment of set-piece skill when he curled the free kick into the top corner of the net from 25 yards.
Despite having ten men, Guisborough’s Johnson and Adam Gell both forced good saves out of Hayes, but Moors nearly added a second when Liam Henderson got through and side-footed straight at Luke Coddington, who also pulled off an excellent save from Henderson’s point-blank header.
Second placed Celtic Nation’s 3-0 home win over Morpeth was therefore academic, and they must now hope for the most unlikely occurrence of an FA cherry pick for promotion.
Peter Murphy headed Nation into the lead from a Glen Lane cross, and Micky Rae nearly headed the second.
Early in the second half, Willie Gibson scored from the edge of the area to make it 2- 0, and Rae made it 3-0 from a pass by Alex Salmon.
The home side took the lead on 29 minutes when Paul Broom crossed for John Close to head home.
Aycliffe made it 2-0 on 42 minutes when Craig Mickle ran though and beat Jordan Nixon, and he created the third when he beat a defender and set up Jamie Owens to score. Stuart Owen got the fourth after James Oliver was brought down, and in the last minute Robbie Briggs fired a consolation.
Two pluses for West were that striker Mattie Moffat had a successful 15-minute return from a fractured cheekbone, and they didn’t suffer any red cards.
Shildon drew 1-1 at Dunston UTS.
They took the lead with a Ben Wood penalty after he was brought down by Dunston keeper Liam Connell, who then went on to pull off two good saves to prevent Shildon going further ahead.
But Dunston improved in the second half and levelled through an effort by Lee McAndrew from a Stephen Goddard assist.
Billingham Synthonia had a good 5-0 home win over Penrith at Central Avenue.
Jack Bradbury put Synners into the lead from a Michael Sweet assist on 13 minutes, then Sweet scored the second after Bradbury’s shot was blocked. David Abel headed the third midway through the half, then Sweet crossed for Bradbury to score the fourth before half-time.
James Magowan, who has announced that he is retiring from playing, fired the fifth near the end.
Crook Town recovered from two heavy recent defeats with a 3-1 home win over Sunderland RCA.
After a goalless first-half, Crook took the lead through Kyle Davis from a few yards, then he dribbled through and made it 2-0. Chris Wallace got the third from a Craig Hughes corner, with Danny Wray pulling a goal back.
League Cup finalists Marske United drew 2-2 with Newcastle Benfield.
They took the lead in the second minute when John Alexander controlled the ball from a throw in and fired home, and they could have added a second before Benfield levelled when Paul Brayson ran through and scored his 35th league goal of the season.
Benfield then took the lead through James Luccock from a free kick, but Marske hit back with a header by Austin Johnston. Both sides had efforts cleared off the line in the dying minutes.
In the second division, Jarrow Roofing are promoted after they scored three times in the first half to beat Willington at Hall Lane.
They couldn’t have got off to a better start when Willington defender Michael Weston handled and Liam McBryde scored from the spot. Anth Myers headed the second from a Corey Barnes corner on 32 minutes, and two minutes later it was all over when Dan Kirkup played the ball forward for McBryde to lob the keeper for his 26th league goal of the season.
Relegation from the second division is still undecided, with either Ryton and Crawcrook or Esh Winning going down Ryton and Crawcrook still have a chance of avoiding relegation after drawing 1-1 at Tow Law, but they could have done with all three points.
Lawyers took the lead through Luke Parkinson, but Dean Sinclair levelled for Ryton.
Ryton’s last game, against South Shields, has yet to be arranged because it was postponed last week because of fog.
Second bottom Esh Winning must therefore live on their nerves after they lost 6-3 at home to Whickham. Veteran Ian Robson put Whickham into the lead, but Graham Embleton levelled for Esh, and then Ryan Burton put them ahead. Robson levelled before half-time.
Esh seemed set for safety when a Whickham defender put through his own goal, but instead they collapsed. Steve Aiston scored a hat-trick in the space of 16 minutes, and in the last minute Mark Fitzpatrick made it 6-3.
Champions North Shields suffered only their fourth defeat of the season when they were beaten 2-1 at Darlington RA.
The RA took the lead through Jimmy Muir, but Dan Smart equalised. However, Paul New popped up with the winner for the RA.
Norton clinched sixth place by beating Northallerton 2-1 at Station Road. Nicky Martin fired Norton into the lead, then Marcus Laing got the second. Colin Anderson pulled a goal back late on.
South Shields beat Chesterle- Street 4-3, while Stokesley went down 4-1 at Whitehaven.
Birtley drew 0-0 at Alnwick in manager Paul Bryson’s last game in charge.
In the Evo-Stik League, Blyth won 4-3 at Stamford and Whitby beat Stafford Rangers 2-1 at the Turnbull Ground.