Blue Square Bet
Published 30th April 2011
And the excitement and tension went right to the wire, but in the end it saw Altrincham and Southport drop into the Blue Square Bet North after defeats to already-relegated Eastbourne Borough and Kettering Town respectively.
Southport were relegated as late goals from Luke O’Neill and Jon Challinor helped Kettering to a 3-1 win at the Elgood`s Brewery Arena to finish the season in style, while Tamworth beat Forest Green Rovers in the other key game that in end saw both safe.
Southport almost struck a vital blow inside the first 2 minutes when Matty McGinn’s fine free-kick crashed off the underside of the bar.
The hosts responded with Adam Cunnington seeing his shot deflected over but the striker didn’t have to wait long for his first goal in Poppies colours.
Southport keeper Tony McMillan completely missed his kick off a pass back. He got back to save brilliantly from Jean-Paul Marna but a second save from Danny Mills fell perfectly at Cunnington’s feet and he could hardly miss from four yards.
At that point, the Sandgrounders were down on goal difference and it almost got worse for them when Luke O’Neill latched on to Marna’s brilliant flick, only for Earl Davis to produce a brilliant last-ditch block.
The game was held up for some time after an injury to visiting defender Kevin Lee and there were good chances for both sides in the 8 minutes of stoppage-time.
The visitors started the second half brightly and Whalley drove an effort just wide.
But it was Whalley who scored the most priceless of goals just past the hour-mark as his 18-yard volley was too good for Nick Bussey and found the corner.
However, there was more drama to come when Kettering were awarded a penalty with 20 minutes to go when Robbie Williams was adjudged to have handled.
Marna stepped up but his effort bounced off the inside of the post and was cleared.
The Sandgrounders almost put it beyond doubt when Bussey dived full-length to save Steve Daly’s header before another nasty-looking injury to Aaron Turner meant another long stoppage.
And from the resulting free-kick disaster struck for the visitors as O’Neill stepped up to curl it into the top corner.
Six minutes of stoppage-time were held up as Southport poured everyone forward but it left the space open and the Poppies broke with Liam McDonald squaring for substitute Challinor to score his first goal and send the visitors down.
Jake Sheridan's strike kept Tamworth safe and earned a win over Forest Green, who also avoided relegation.
Christian Smith's low strike put the Lambs ahead after less than 3 minutes, but Matt Somner headed home to level 7 minutes after the interval.
But Sherdian's cross-cum-shot with 13 minutes remaining won it for the Lambs.
It would have needed some strange results to have sent Barrow down, but a Richie Baker double confirmed that the Bluebirds will continue to play in the Conference Premier next year.
Baker struck 7 minutes after the break, guiding home from nine yards when Hayes failed to deal with an awkward bouncing ball in the area.
And Barrow doubled their lead on 61 minutes when Wayne Curtis twice forced Lee Harrison into saves from Paul Edwards' cross, before Baker tapped in the rebound.
Hayes failed to really trouble Clark Masters in the Barrow goal.
York City finished in eighth place in the final table after a 1-1 draw at champions Crawley Town.
Jamal Fyfield's cross was turned into the Crawley net by home defender David Hunt to give the Minstermen the lead in the 5th minute.
However, Matt Tubbs levelled for the hosts from the penalty spot on 68 minutes.
Runners-up AFC Wimbledon rounded off their league campaign with a 2-1 win against Grimsby Town at Kingsmeadow.
The Mariners started slowly and went behind just 7 minutes in when Dons striker Luke Moore beat the offside trap to slot home. Town were second best for much of the first period and needed an inspired Kenny Arthur to keep them in it - one stunning save keeping out a Kaid Mohamed header from close range.
But before the interval, Town got level through Alan Connell, taking advantage of a generous offside call against young debutant Sam Mulready to arrow home a great strike and take his tally for the campaign to twenty-nine goals in all competitions.
After the break, Arthur was at it again, and when he was beaten, Charlie I'Anson cleared off the line. But sloppy defending allowed Brett Johnson to edge the Dons ahead again on 50 minutes following a header bouncing back off the bar from Lee Minshull.
Town rallied and teenage midfielder Andi Thanoj twice saw efforts hit the bar.
A late Jason Walker penalty rescued Luton Town as they and rivals Wrexham shared the spoils in their play-off warm-up.
Academy striker Louis Moss enjoyed a fairytale start to his professional career when he poked in Adrian Cieslewicz's cross for a goal 12 minutes into his debut.
The young Wrexham side almost won it but Anthony Stevens conceded a penalty with a late foul on Luton's Dan Walker.
Namesake Jason converted the spot-kick 2 minutes from time to deny Wrexham a fourth straight win.
Newport County celebrated the end of their first season in non-League football`s top flight with their biggest victory for twelve years against ten-man Gateshead at the International Stadium.
But Gary Mulligan had given Gateshead a close-range lead after 24 minutes but 10 minutes later their keeper Tim Deasy conceded a penalty and was sent-off after colliding with Tom Miller.
Jamie Collins scored the spot-kick before adding another with a low shot.
A Chris Todd header, a Miller strike, Danny Rose's effort, Lee Baker's long-ranger and Charlie Griffin won it.
The Welsh club rounded off their first season in the Conferemce Premier with their biggest league win since beating Bloxwich 6-0 in the Southern League in November 1998.
A 400-mile round trip to Darlington for the final game of the season brought defeat for cash-strapped Rushden & Diamonds.
Two second half strikes secured the points for FA Trophy finalists.
Diamonds should have gone ahead before the break to liven up a poor period.
Tommy Wright volleyed over the first chance for Darlington but Aaron O’Connor and Nabil Shariff forced saves from Sam Russell before Jamie Day’s drive was deflected over.
Wright could only lob the ball into the six-yard box after beating Diamonds keeper Simon Evans outside the penalty area.
Day went off due to injury and Alan Power was denied by Russell at the end of the first half.
The Quakers gained the advantage 17 minutes after the break with their first attempt on target through former Leicester City striker Wright’s tap-in.
Aaron Brown’s 20-yard free-kick flashed wide but substitute John Campbell sealed the win with a long-range blockbuster into the roof of the net.
Darlington`s Wembley opponents Mansfield Town are having problems, however.
Their dreadful league season ended in miserable fashion with a 2-0 defeat and yet another red card at Bath City’s Twerton Park.
Just a week from the Trophy final, the last thing injury-hit Stags needed was to see Steven Istead sent-off just 15 minutes into the game for kicking Joe Burnell.
For Bath it was delight as they leap-frogged Mansfield in the table to finish in their highest position for sixteen years.
For Stags it was a seventh red card of the campaign and another body unavailable for Wembley, where Mansfield can just about fill the bench, and a twelfth place finish.
In a dour game, Stags mustered one decent shot at goal in each half from Adam Smith.
But Alan Marriott, cementing his place for Wembley, was by far the busier keeper and made some good saves before he was finally beaten when Marley Watkins went clean through on 52 minutes.
The keeper’s display was the only positive to come out of an afternoon to otherwise forget.
When veteran Scott Murray made it 2-0 on 75 minutes the final whistle could not come quickly enough for Stags and their faithful away fans, who will be hoping for a better day out, and a few more players back from injury, next weekend at Wembley.
Alex-Ray Harvey grabbed the only goal as Cambridge United ended their campaign on a losing note against play-off bound Fleetwood Town at the R Costings Stadium.
Conal Platt had come closest to getting United off the mark in the first half with three long-range efforts, coming from free kicks and open play, either flying over or saved by visiting keeper Scott Davies.
Danny Naisbitt was on alert to tip over a near post blast from Peter Cavanagh 10 minutes before the break before making a neat stop from Keigan Parker from the resulting corner.
Harvey broke the deadlock for Fleetwood on 77 minutes with a close-range finish after getting on the end of a bouncing ball forward from midfield.
Youngster Jack Eades was brought on for his United debut 7 minutes from time. Brian Saah could have bagged an equaliser in the final minute only to see hid drive from the edge of the box pushed away by Davies.
Already-relegated Histon threw away a two-goal lead but came away from Kidderminster Harriers with a 2-2 draw to finally end a run of thirteen defeats.
Omer Riza scored in the 40th minute to put the Stutes ahead and Antonio Murray doubled the lead with 15 minutes remaining.
But slack defending in the 78th minute gifted Matty Blair a goal and a minute later Keith Briggs slotted home the equaliser.
Both sides had chances to win it in the closing stages with Histon holding on for the draw.