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10 May

Fleetwood Town FC Are Going Up!


Amidst joyous scenes at Highbury Stadium, Fleetwood Town earned their rightful place at the top table of non-league football with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over Alfreton Town in the Blue Square North play-off final.

Victory over a resilient side who had lost just once in their last twenty one outings ensured that Town would join Southport in the Blue Square Premier League and they can now look forward to even more exciting days ahead as a number of ex-Football League teams including Darlington, Grimsby Town and Luton Town come to town.

An unchanged Town started the game strongly and dominated the first half hour as they took the game to Alfreton with a committed performance based on fluid passing movement with Jamie Mullan particularly busy down the right. The visitors’ normally strong defence came under constant pressure with Town having a chance to take the lead after just three minutes when Gareth Seddon got in between defender Aden Flint and goalkeeper Ross Turner, only to see his attempt go wide of the target.

Pressure was rewarded after eight minutes when Nathan Pond, impressive throughout, scored his third goal of the season from the edge of the penalty area, a shot which took a deflection on the way, leaving goalkeeper Turner stranded. Town should have gone further ahead after 16 minutes with Simon Grand firing over from close range following a Pond header at the back post.

Town’s defence, with an impressive Steve McNulty at its heart, came under pressure in the final ten minutes of the half as Alfreton began to show a capacity crowd why they are one of the league’s top scorers. Paul Clayton headed inches wide from a cross on 38 minutes and ghosted into the area after 43 minutes, forcing McNulty to clear hurriedly for a corner. Other chances in a hectic period fell to Anton Brown and Anthony Howell but Town entered the break with their one goal lead intact.

The second half began at pace with end-to-end action. Sean Clancy hit a firm shot straight at Turner after 49 minutes while, at the other end, Grand’s indiscretion after 51 minutes gave a free kick away in a dangerous position just outside the penalty area.

Alfreton’s captain, Chris Shaw, wasted the opportunity by shooting straight at Shaun Beeley and Town cleared the threat. Alfreton continued to press, however, with McNulty forced to head off the line from Howell after 58 minutes.

A flurry of substitutions followed with Nicky Law, Alfreton’s manager, replacing Jake Moult and Howell with Andy Todd and Jordan Hall and Micky Mellon sending on the combative Steven Connors for Jamie Milligan, Town’s captain receiving generous applause as he left the field. Two minutes later, Seddon hobbled off after a heavy tackle and was replaced by Lee Thorpe for the striker’s first appearance in the play-off matches, following injury.

Town’s faithful were stunned after 73 minutes when Todd was felled by Pond in a crowded area, the Alfreton player getting up to strike the spot kick firmly down the middle of the goal for an equaliser in front of an ecstatic following of some 550 fans who had made the journey from Derbyshire.

Town looked to be under pressure at this stage but summoned up reserves of character and took the lead again five minutes later when Thorpe thumped home his third of the season after Turner had struggled to clear McNulty’s hanging free kick into the box. Alfreton came back in the final few minutes and gave Town’s defence more nervy moments with Man of the Match Beeley booked on 82 minutes for a foul on Todd but the red and whites hung on, after an agonizing period of over five minutes added-on time, to secure a well-deserved promotion after a dramatic season.

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