FC St Helens crowned North West Counties Division One North champions after historic win

FC St Helens celebrate title win

FC St Helens created history as they secured promotion to the North West Counties Premier Division with a 3-2 win over Runcorn Town. 

Michael Smith’s side needed two points from their final three matches to win the First Division North and reach Step Five for the first time in their 10-year history. 

Anticipation was in the air as expectant fans visited Windleshaw Sports and for the Stripes, they were looking to extend their unbeaten league run – which stretches back to November. 

However, Town were looking to spoil the party and after 20 minutes, they looked to be ripping up the script when Eric Yahaya fired the visitors in front. Yao Aziamale found space down the left and was denied by Joe Mason but his save fell to the feet of the Runcorn forward. 

The game then sparked into life as St Helens responded immediately through Tom Scarborough. Josh Hall looked the latch onto a through ball, colliding with the goalkeeper but the referee played advantage and the hosts drew level immediately. 

Parity lasted just seven minutes as the Stripes took the lead. Mason’s goal-kick wasn’t dealt with at the back and Hall ghosted in behind to stab home. 

The encounter remained on a knife-edge with the visitors looking to delay St Helens’ title ambitions. Yahaya squandered a golden opportunity to bring the game level and double his tally for the afternoon but blazed his effort over the bar from Matthew Argent-Barnes’ cutback. Soon after the interval, the visitors were once again level after a poachers goal from Matty Scoullar. 

Both sides pushed to restore the lead but in the final 15 minutes, FC St Helens had one hand on the Division One North trophy when Jack Ball converted from the spot. A goalkeeping lapse from Jack Barrow was pounced upon by Hall, who was subsequently brought down. 

Ball stepped up and fired low to the bottom left to send the Stripes within touching distance of promotion. Shortly after, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Joe Downey shown a straight red card for a professional foul.

The numerical advantage was diminished in stoppage time when Nathan Carnell was also shown a red card. 

However it didn’t dampen the spirits as the referee brought the game to an end – confirming FC St Helens’ place in next season’s North West Counties Premier Division. 

‘An unbelievable feeling’

FC St Helens manager Michael Smith told Off The Park: “It’s hard to put into words because the performance was probably the worst we’ve had for months. I think nerves played a massive part but all that mattered was getting over the line and getting the three points, it probably hasn’t sunk in but I’m sure after a few pints it will.

“You can’t ask for much more (title win in first season). I applied for so many jobs and didn’t get spoken to – FC were the first and gave me an opportunity. I’ve always maintained that the lads had a core squad and I’ve built around that, to do this.

“They were far better than us today, they looked like they were going to score at any opportunity and I thought nerves played a part but we got that chance. I looked at my watch and it felt like forever to go, we made the change to grind it out and we didn’t let them back into it.

“It feels unbelievable, it’s an unbelievable feeling. We’re league champions and into the Premier Division, 10 years the club has been going and I don’t think there will be another club to do this.”

[Featured image: NWCFL]

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