Another record breaking day at Grounsell Park as 1,091 fans turned up to see Stan come from behind to win promotion to NL1 with a hard worked win over tough opponents Tow Law Town.
We had a taste of what was to happen as early as the 6th minute when Nicholas Marley fouled Dan Regan. Dean Holmes needed treatment following a poor tackle, and he had to be substituted on 14 minutes by James Proctor. Having not had 32 goal scorer Liam McBryde available through injury, for the semi final, and now the final, this was quite a blow to lose Holmes.
And it go worse for Stan as they conceded a penalty on 16 minutes, which Thomas McAloon put away, with Regan getting a hand on the ball, but could not prevent it getting into the net. 0-1.
It was a hard watch for Stan fans in the first half as their team were not as good as their semi final performance, and rather played into their opponents hands in the first half. Two big centre backs gobbled up any long high ball near them, and a physical Tow Law were presenting a big problem to home aspirations.
Jay Hornsby cross too deep, but a corner was won which keeper Lewis Graham fumbled the ball and another corner was won. Proctor was penalised as he tried get down the right flank, when it looked to me that he was fouled twice.
The game was held up on 35 minutes with Marley needing treatment for a cut on his head, with both sides taking a much needed water break.
Four minutes later Tow Law netted again, but the assistant referee had his flag up and it was disallowed.
Just before the break Dan Stephenson was caught offside from Michael Hall’s ball down the left flank.
Dean and his staff needed these 15 minutes to rethink and recharge his team.
Half time 0-1
Leighton Hopper started the second half by playing the centre forward role, On 55 minutes Lawyer’s captain Ryan McKinnon was booked for an elbow in Bailey’s face, as home fans were chanting off, off, off. How was that not violent conduct!
But the decibels got louder on 58 minutes when Hopper played a delightful ball through for Stephenson, and he showed his class once again with a delightful finish giving Graham no chance. 1-1
A good move down the right with Lee McAndrew crossing but McKinnon headed behind for a corner. From it Graham carried the ball over the line with another corner, as Stan looked for a winner.
Tow Law made two substitutions, Archie Gardiner on for Kurt Seymour and Alfie Pearn on for McAloon, but Stan hadn’t used a substitute since Proctor came on in the first half. Were they confident that the team could win it in 90 minutes, or waiting to see if it went to extra time.
Tow Law were under a lot of pressure now and their attempts on the home goal became non existent. Bailey had a shot deflected for a corner, Hopper had a run forward but a timely tackle from McKinnon conceding another corner. Stephenson cross for Hopper to head over the bar. Marley booked for a foul on Hornsby.
The board was held up, 3 added minutes.
A couple of corners for Stan came to nothing as extra time loomed large, but on 94 minutes Stan won a corner on the left. It was not McAndrew’s best corner, but the Lawyers did not fully clear it with the ball put back into the box and a flying Bailey header went goalwards, it was though time stood still, quietness, then the burst of exuberant joy erupted as the ball hit the back of the net. Bailey disappeared under the bodies of his team mates. 2-1. What a match. What a finish. You would not see a better climax in the Premier League.
What a match to treasure, what a season it has been, let the party begin.
Credit: Joe Street