Hednesford Town head into the Conference North next season after a gritty play-off victory over FC United of Manchester clinched a dramatic promotion.
Delighted boss Rob Smith was full of praise for his players after they overcame the heartbreak of missing out on automatic promotion and the Evo-Stik Northern Premier title on goal difference the previous weekend.
He said: “This set of players have been fantastic all year. They have answered everything I’ve asked of them.
“I asked the lads to go out there and just do it one more time for me and that is exactly what they have done.
“I thought we caused them a lot of trouble at the back in the first half but perhaps didn’t exploit it as much as we should have. Then they score and you’re watching the clock. We just never do anything the easy way!
“I think this club deserves to be in Conference North – we are all set up for it. Visiting places like Stockport and AFC Telford is going to be fantastic for all who are involved at the club.”
The heart-pounding finale was played out in front of a record crowd at Keys Park – 4,412 supporters jammed into the ground to see the Pitmen follow North Ferriby United’s lead by gaining promotion to the second tier of non-league football.
Goals from Neil Harvey and Jamey Osborne in the first half were enough to see Town over the line despite Mike Norton reducing the arrears in the second period.
The win brought smiles back to the Chase after the agony of defeat for Chasetown in the First Division South play-off final.
The Scholars went down 2-1 at Stamford on Friday night as their dream of promotion died.
The Pitmen made the perfect start to their showdown with the Manchester club when they opened the scoring after just 88 seconds.
League Player of the Year Elliott Durrell got to the bye-line and his low cross wasn’t dealt with, leaving Harvey with the opportunity to slam the ball home.
Hednesford made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark.
Michael Lennon pounced on a loose ball in the corner and was able to pick out Harvey, who in turn set up Osborne to slot the ball into the corner of the net.
FC United found a way back into the game after 56 minutes, though.
The visitors won a corner and from the flag-kick Norton was given all the time in the world to plant a header into the middle of the goal.
Hednesford were now on the back foot and just three minutes later Matthew Wolfenden struck the crossbar for the visitors.
In the 75th minute FC United felt they should have had a penalty for an infringement on Norton, while 60 seconds later Durrell struck the post at the other end following a free-kick into the penalty area.
Hednesford could have extended their lead as first Durrell was denied by Kyle Jacobs before Nathan Woolfe blazed over the bar, but saw out time to earn their place at a higher level.
Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey, Francis, Macpherson, Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Woolfe 90), Lennon (Rey 66), Taylor
FC United: Worsnop, Jacobs, Neville, Birch (Tierney 77), Scott, Masirika (Cotterill 42), Wolfenden, Banks, Norton, Wright, Mulholland (Greaves 42).Subscribe to our Newsletter