: News : Match Reviews : Season 2016/17 : Toolstation NCEL Match Review 2016/17 #71 : Printable Version
Cleethorpes Town were crowned Toolstation NCEL Premier Division champions, Retford United's relegation was confirmed and the battle for the Division One title will go one of three ways on the final day of the season after a breathtaking Easter weekend of football.
The Owls, who had been odds on favourites to lift the trophy for many weeks, won both of their games to rubber stamp their triumph and secure promotion to the Evo-Stik League after five seasons in the NCEL.
A 3-0 win at Bottesford Town on Thursday, courtesy of goals from Liam Davis, Leigh Hutchinson and Gary King, put them on the verge of crossing the finishing line but second-placed Pickering Town continued to push them as much as they could as they beat hosts Harrogate Railway Athletic, 5-0, on Friday.
Lewis Taylor's penalty was added to by goals from Nicholas Thompson and Eddy Birch in the first half before George Bissett and Ryan Blott added to their tally in the second period.
That meant Cleethorpes knew that a win at Athersley Recreation on Saturday would confirm them as champions and, as soon as Alexander Flett put them ahead at the end of the first half, it was a comfortable 4-0 victory with Brody Robertson's quickfire brace settling the nerves early after the interval and Andrew Taylor added the fourth in the 82nd minute to spark the celebrations.
A massive congratulations to Cleethorpes from all at the NCEL for a much deserved title triumph and they now will be looking to break through the 100 point barrier in their final three matches.
Meanwhile, it was a sad day for Retford who will be playing Division One football next season after a 2-1 loss at Maltby Main condemned them to the drop, Jake Ashton putting them ahead midway through the opening period before two late goals from Reece Wesley and Joshua Nodder snatched a win for the home side.
By then, though, Retford knew their fate as victories for fellow strugglers Barton Town Old Boys and Parkgate ensured they were down whatever the score was at Muglet Lane.
Barton beat visitors Worksop Town, 2-0, with goals from Lee Shilleto and Gary Bradshaw but remain the third team in the relegation zone after Parkgate's 3-0 win at Rainworth Miners Welfare, Alex Lill, Lebrun Mbeka and Connor Griffin's own goal keeping the Steelmen above the trapdoor, leapfrogging Rainworth who now find themselves just outside the bottom three.
Elsewhere, Thackley won the top-five clash at Bridlington Town, Luke Robinson's brace claiming the points before an injury time consolation for the Seasiders from Jack Walters in a 2-1 victory whilst Handsworth Parramore kept hold of fourth spot with a 4-1 home win over Albion Sports, Alex Rippon, Connor Smythe, Reece Hands and Aaron Moxam netting for the Amber Parras.
Four goals from Richard Collier helped Hemsworth Miners Welfare to a 6-1 win at already relegated Armthorpe Welfare whilst there were two each for Liversedge's Alfie Raw and Bottesford's Luke Anderson in Sedge's 4-3 home win.
AFC Mansfield beat neighbours Clipstone, 5-0, at the Forest Town Arena to strengthen their claims for a top seven finish whilst there was a goalless draw for sixth-placed Staveley Miners Welfare at Garforth Town in their clash on Friday.
Three teams each held top spot for a while over the weekend in Division One as the closest title race in many years continued to gather momentum.
Pontefract Collieries moved top on goal difference after their 5-1 win at Knaresborough Town on Friday as they came from behind in the second half thanks to a Glynn Cotton double and strikes from Luke Jeffs, Jack Greenhough and Kane Reece.
Hall Road Rangers were the next to climb to the summit on Saturday lunchtime as Christopher Spinks' 38th minute penalty earned a tight 1-0 win at Rossington Main.
Finally, AFC Emley conceded first at home to Glasshoughton Welfare through Nathan Keightley before Jordan Coduri, Ashley Scully and Thomas Brennan secured a 3-1 victory that moved the Pewits back to first spot.
Emley have now completed their programme, two points ahead of Rangers and three ahead of Pontefract but with an inferior goal difference, so next weekend's final round of matches for their two rivals will determine who are champions, who also go up in second spot and who will end up in the play-offs.
The other three sides who are confirmed for a play-off spot were also in action, Grimsby Borough enjoying a 4-0 home victory over Worsbrough Bridge Athletic, thanks in part to two goals from Jack Debnam, whilst Hallam were 3-0 winners at Ollerton Town, Scott Bates, Michael Blythen and Callum Greaves on the scoresheet, and an equaliser from Scott Whittington claimed Penistone Church a point in a 1-1 draw in a Saturday evening match at Selby Town.
The two relegated sides met with Westella & Willerby winning 4-0 at Nostell Miners Welfare, Alex Wood claiming a couple for the visitors.
Eccleshill United beat Winterton Rangers by the same scoreline at Mitton Group Stadium, Matthew Matthers netting the first two goals to set them on their way by half-time.
There was a 2-0 home win for Brigg Town over Yorkshire Amateur whilst Teversal beat visitors Shirebrook Town by a single goal in their local derby and a 4-1 victory for Campion at home to Dronfield Town on Thursday night ensured they kept themselves in seventh.
The Campion match, along with the games at Garforth, Harrogate Railway, Knaresborough, Rossington, Armthorpe and Selby, made up the first part of the Easter Groundhop weekend where an average of 330 people went through the gates to watch the games.
The Toolstation NCEL would like to congratulate the organisers, all of the host teams and their opponents for helping to make the groundhop a massive success.