Gainsborough Town 1, Skegness United 2
Skegness United are celebrating after victory over title rivals Gainsborough Town on Saturday helped secure their first Lincolnshire League title in only the second season since their re-formation.
On a warm sunny afternoon both sides started in a very competitive manner with the home side knowing only a win would keep their title dream alive.
It was United who had the first half chance after eight minutes when a Howard shot was wide of the target.
The early part of the match was busy in midfield and both sides were moving the ball well without really penetrating.
Adam Broom was then unlucky with a shot before skipper Kurt Crossley was released through the middle, but his shot was wide of the target.
Gainsborough were causing problems using the height of Lee Bognar to set up counter attacks, however he found it hard to get any change out of Walden and Skinner.
As the half wore on Gainsborough took control and Jamie Skinner had to make a great last ditch tackle and then Ben Martin had to be quick off his line to gather a through ball.
However, with half time approaching United broke the deadlock when Michael Howard was pushed over in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Club captain Jordan Walden confidently stepped up to send home keeper Danny Markam the wrong way and give the United the lead going into the interval.
Gainsborough levelled just five minutes into the second-half. A slip in the visitors’ defence resulted in Lee Bognar taking advantage, and after good control he placed the ball over Ben Martin into the far corner of the net.
Shortly afterwards United made their first tactical change when manager Mark Hallam replaced Michael Howard allowing Kyle McGuigan to move into a more advanced position.
Almost immediately United restored their lead when Crossley was released down the left by Rayner-Mistry, and when his cross came over Kyle McGuigan got in between two home defenders and forced the ball home off a defender to spark wild celebrations.
The home side were still having plenty of the ball in midfield, however, with United holding a high line, many of the balls over the defence were going out for goal kicks or gathered by Martin in goal.
United were now happy to soak up the pressure and hit Gainsborough on the break and McGuigan had a rasping shot turned round the post for a corner.
O’Loughlin then delivered a dangerous ball into the area and Jamie Skinner headed against the bar before the home side scrambled the ball to safety.
Gainsborough had not given up and were looking to get back on level terms, however they could not find a way through a determined United side and as the final whistle blew the United players celebrated a memorable season winning their first league title with three games to spare.
Manager Mark Hallam said: “It still hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s only our second season and this young group of mainly Skegness based players has won the title with 3 games to spare.
“It has to be the greatest footballing achievement in this town in more than half a century. Jason and I could not be more proud of them and this is just the beginning for this team and this football club.
“If we can continue to get the fantastic people of this town behind us who knows what we can achieve. We dared to believe this was possible and now we have done it.”
Team - Ben Martin, Arron Scutt, Ross Muirhead, Jordan Walden, Jamie Skinner, Adam Broom, Luke Rayner-Mistry, Kyle McGuigan, Michael Howard (Mark Hallam), Ryan O’Loughlin and Kurt Crossley.
Unused subs: Jordan Smith, Josh Clarke and Jobe Stainton.
Man of the Match: Kyle McGuigan.
On Thursday evening newly-crowned champions United will welcome rivals Town to Wainfleet Road for a 6.45pm kick off. Then, on Saturday, Boston United Reserves are the vistors to Wainfleet Road for a 3pm kick off. The League Championship Trophy Presentation is scheduled to take place after the game.
“It would be great to see the people of Skegness turn out in huge numbers in recognition of the achievement of these boys,” added Mark Hallam.