Halesowen rule the roost
Despite a first defeat in nine games for the Nailers, there was unbridled celebration at Christchurch Meadow as Halesowen Town clinched the title after a 2-0 victory over Belper Town.
Belper's Aaron Pride battles with possession with Halesowen striker, Ben Haseley (Photo: Tim Harrison)
Supporters from both sides turned out in their numbers and created an electric atmosphere on this final day of the league season.
With one eye on the play-off semi-final on Wednesday night away to Leek Town, manager Peter Duffield rested Dan White and Gareth Davies . Chris Jones moved into central defence, Simon Harrison figured on the left flank whilst Colin Marrison came into central midfield alongside captain Steve Warne.
As expected, with much at stake for the visitors, Halesowen began the game in a nervous fashion and gifted early possession to the Nailers.
Indeed it was the Nailers who had the first major chance of the game after just six minutes.
James Cullingworth swung in a cross which Joe Hull could only clear as far as Steve Warne on the edge of the box.
The Nailers skipper struck his effort with pace towards the right hand corner where Jon Froggatt reacted well to glance a header which crashed against the top of the crossbar with goalkeeper Matt Sargeant a spectator.
Belper then created another opportunity with Steve Warne again playing a huge part in the proceedings.
Warne had done well to retrieve possession high up the field and played a brilliant one-two with Kieran Wells to engineer a yard of space and hit the first time shot arrowed straight at Sargeant who got down well to claim the ball.
After a cagey opening 20 minutes, Halesowen Town produced a moment a magic to send their fans wild with the opening goal.
The ball was played long by Tom Tonks with a beautifully driven ball out to the right hand side for Iyseden Christie.
Christie then did well to hold the ball up and create space for himself down the channel before playingthe ball in to Ben Haseley whose first touch was sublime to spin on a sixpence past Phil Watt and deftly defeat the Scot Low despite the Nailers ‘keeper getting a hand to the ball.
In a game of few chances, Halesowen created the next opening with a speculative volley by Christie from 30 yards, after Kristian Green had done well to cut his cross back from the right hand side.
The second half was very much attack-v-defence as the Nailers sought an equaliser, but struggled to break down the stubborn Halesowen backline.
However, it was the away side that went on to score the second vital goal of the game to double their lead after 71 minutes.
A long free kick from the edge of their own box was driven long by Curtis Tilt, and a case of miscommunication between Chris Jones and Scot Low resulted in Jones heading the ball backwards over his goalkeeper, leaving the impressive Ben Haseley with the simple job of tapping the ball into the back of the empty net.
Despite their best efforts, the Nailers were unable to unlock their opponents defence for the remainder of the game, and as the final whistle blew, a thunderous cheer was sounded by the newly crowned Evo-Stik Division 1 South Champions.
Belper Town: Scott Low, Aaron Pride, James Cullingworth, Colin Marrison, Phil Watt (Liam Davis 45), Chris Jones, Aaron Cole, Steve Warne, Jon Froggatt (Sam Duncum 75), Kieran Wells (Mark Ward 63), Simon Harrison. Subs: Joe Flint, Dave Ratcliffe.
Halesowen Town: Matthew Sargeant, Kristian Green, Asa Charlton, Neil Mackenzie (Jean Gueyes 86), Joe Hull, Curtis Tilt, Aaron Griffiths, Tom Tonks (Aaron Forde 75), Iyseden Christie, Ben Haseley (Mark Danks 81), Elliot Turner. Subs: Brendan Kelly, Sam Pearson.
Referee: Ollie Yates (Newcastle under Lyme)