City of Liverpool will be playing Premier Division football next season, courtesy of a 3-0 win at Litherland REMYCA in the Hallmark Security League Division One play-off final.
A three-goal blitz in the opening 10 minutes of the second half paved the way for the Purples’ victory, which was acclaimed amid scenes of celebration at the final whistle by a crowd of 1,303 spectators – a record for the Litherland Sports Park.
The achievement is the latest in the Purples’ inaugural season success story, having already lifted the Reusch First Division Cup, winning the Non-League Team of the Season award from bookmakers Coral, and they will round off a memorable nine months with an appearance in the Macron Cup final against Barnoldswick Town on Tuesday.
Credit must also be given, despite the result, to Litherland REMYCA, who have also enjoyed a fine season, finishing just three points outside the automatic promotion places and recording a memorable win over Everton in the Liverpool Senior Cup.
It was always destined to be a fascinating occasion, both for the League and non-League football on Merseyside, with two sides who are based just over a mile apart facing one another in a ‘winner takes all’ final, having completed the league campaign separated by just one league point.
It was perhaps no surprise that the early stages of the game were rather nervy and tense, although it was City of Liverpool who took control of the opening half hour.
Aside of an opening minute free-kick from Remy’s Colin Quirk that curled just past the far post, evading defenders and attackers alike, the bulk of the opening 25 minutes were played in the Remy half of the field as the visitors applied prolonged pressure on the home defence, but failed to convert the domination into clear cut chances.
The best opening arrived in the 23rd minute, when City of Liverpool’s Jamie McDonald set up Matty Williams for shot that flashed just wide of the far post, and a minute later Remy keeper David Potter had to leap to catch a high ball under close attention from John Connolly, after the Remy defence were slow to react.
Remy’s best chance of the half came just after the half-hour mark, when a fine through ball from Colin Quirk caught out the visitors` defence and released Lennon Whewell through on goal, but a great saving tackle from City of Liverpool centre-back Allen Weston averted the danger.
Remy’s Stephen Ferrigan saw a shot whistle just over the bar soon afterwards, and the half ended with a chance at the other end, when Jamie McDonald headed over from eight yards after beating his marker to a Francis Foy cross.
But after a close fought first half, few could have predicted the rapid swing in fortunes immediately after the restart, as City of Liverpool effectively put the game to bed.
One minute and 15 seconds into the second half, the Purples took the lead when John Connolly collected the ball on the left, and picked out Jamie McDonald with a low driven cross into the six-yard box that the striker side-footed into the net to give his side a vital breakthrough.
Three minutes later, McDonald struck again, this time with a solo effort which began with him finding space down the left flank, and as the Remy defence back tracked he strode into the box, rounded keeper Potter and squeezed the ball in at the near post for his, and the Purples’, second goal.
Six minutes, it was Matty Williams who took centre stage with the goal of the afternoon, and a terrific piece of opportunism it was too.
Collecting the ball just inside the Remy half on the right flank, Williams spotted Remy keeper Potter off his line and launched an audacious shot from 40 yards that the back-pedalling Potter managed to get a touch to, but was unable to prevent landing in the back of the net.
It was a body blow that Remy never recovered from, and the rest of the game was largely played out in midfield, with occasional moments when the visitors threatened to increase their lead further.
A Matty Williams shot that curled just past the far post, a header over the bar from substitute David Forbes, and an angled shot from Joseph Camozzi that rebounded off the crossbar could have made the margin of victory greater, but in the end the Purple clad hordes were more than happy with a win that was welcomed in full voice at the final whistle.
The result also means that for the third season in row, since the Division One play offs began in 2015, the team that has won the Reusch First Division Cup has then gone on to win promotion via the play off final, with the Purples following in the footsteps of AFC Darwen and Barnton in previous years.
City of Liverpool manager Simon Burton was understandably delighted with the way that events had unfolded: “The first 20 minutes or so we were really on top, and had a couple of really good chances and you’d expect us to hit the target but we didn’t.
“After that we took the foot off a bit, we had started with good intensity and then we stopped doing all the right things, which allowed REMYCA to get back into the game.
“So, at half-time we said to go out with the same intensity we started with, and it turned out we scored within a minute or so and the game was put to bed within 5.
“Full credit to the boys, they went out and took the game by the scruff of the neck, got us in front and pushed on from there”.
— Darren Farley (@DFImpressionist) May 13, 2017
Absolutely over the moon for @CityofLpoolFC on their promotion, long hard season & its fully deserved. Onward & upward ????
— ajcaveney (@Anthony29624583) May 13, 2017