Hednesford Town promotion party after victory over FC United
For 4,421 football fans on Saturday, there was only one place to be – and it wasn't Wembley.
Joyous scenes followed Hednesford Town's 2-1 victory over FC United of Manchester as the Pitmen clinched a long-awaited promotion.
The club's black and white army of fans spilled on to the Cross Keys pitch to celebrate as supporters in the stands sang 'We love you Hednesford, we do'.
The occasion was marred by minor skirmishes leading to three arrests after the game. In a separate incident a Hednesford Town fan was injured by a missile thrown from the away stand.
But nothing was going to spoil the party for the delirious home fans who flooded the pitch at the final whistle to mob players and club officials.
Footballer turned pundit Stan Collymore, who lives in Cannock, was quick to tweet: 'The Pride of Staffordshire, the Pitmen spirit! Superb stuff!'
The beer and bubbly flowed in the club bar afterwards, where staff had prepared fajitas and jerk chicken at the special request of the players. It was the least they could do to celebrate the club's promotion from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division at the fourth time of asking.
Hednesford were 2-0 up at half time but were pegged back in the second half, ensuring a nervy finale for the home fans.
Among the ecstatic home supporters was 19-year-old Danielle Xenophontos who had travelled from Stockport with an army of family and friends to watch her uncle, midfielder Nathan Woolfe, who came on as a substitute.
She was one of the hundreds who invaded the pitch at the end. "I ruined a new pair of shoes it was that muddy but it was worth it," she said.
But watching the game had fans hiding behind their hands at times, she admitted.
"We were all on the edge of our seats for the last few minutes. We had every faith but it was tense. When the whistle went everyone went mental, jumping up and down, and cheering. I almost broke my toe when someone landed on it. I videoed the game for posterity, including the trophy presentation which was right by us. We we were behind the dug-out so I got high-fives from all the players at the end."
Neil Hornby, whose 18-year-old son Sam is the Pitmen's youth team goalkeeper, said the game provided plenty of excitement.
Mr Hornby, 46, of Sutton Coldfield, a full-time coach at Burton Albion Academy, said: "There was only one team in it in the first half but then they came back at us. I have to say their support was very good but our fans were brilliant. It was a well deserved win for a great club with a great tradition."
He added he had seen some trouble. "There was bit of naughtiness, both from frustrated FC United fans and from our supporters goading them a bit but no actual fisticuffs that I saw."
Hednesford supporter Chris Brindley, landlord of the Cross Keys pub in Hill Street, said 'a handful of idiots' were involved in minor scuffles.
"It was people who don't follow the team week in, week out. Given the attendance, the crowd was well behaved. The police were excellent and nipped any problems in the bud."
Inspector Darren Oakey, of Staffordshire Police, said three arrests were made in separate incidents just outside the ground after the match. It has not been revealed whether they were home or away supporters.
Club bosses had spent two weeks preparing for the clash, drafting in up to 40 extra stewards and more bar staff.
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