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Unstoppable Knaresboro’ seal promotion to top-flight

Steve Bromley celebrates the goal against Eccleshill United that ultimately secured Knaresborough Town's promotion from NCEL Division One. Picture: Craig Dinsdale
Steve Bromley celebrates the goal against Eccleshill United that ultimately secured Knaresborough Town's promotion from NCEL Division One. Picture: Craig Dinsdale

Knaresborough Town sealed promotion to the NCEL Premier Division when they drew 1-1 with title rivals Eccleshill United on Saturday.

The runaway Division One leaders can now only be overtaken by nearest challengers United following a loss for third-placed Grimsby Borough at Campion, and with the top two going up automatically, the Manse Lane outfit’s fate is now secured.

Paul Stansfield’s men have been in superb form all season, winning 28 of their 36 league games to date to open up a 15-point lead at the summit.

And with just six fixtures remaining, Boro could wrap up the title on Tuesday when they travel to Dronfield Town, with a maximum of four points required between now and the end of the campaign to make absolutely certain of top spot.

Eccleshill began Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown brightly and Liam Hudson shot over before Luke Harrop forced home goalkeeper Jack Rushworth into action from a free-kick.

Boro went ahead to the delight of a 233-strong crowd when Rob Youhill cut in from the right and crossed low for Steve Bromley to side-foot home in the 14th minute.

Conor Donoghue then had to leave the field with a broken collar bone forcing Stansfield forced to bring Harry Brown into the fray before Rushworth easily dealt with a long-range effort from Charlie Flaherty.

Will Lenehan saw a powerful header tipped over by Dominic Smith in the visitors’ goal and the gloveman also saved from Brad Walker and Greg Kidd as the hosts pressed.

At the other end, Hudson shot wide before half-time and Flaherty was also off target just after the resumption, but Boro remained in control.

Walker fired over then Lenehan had an effort clawed away by Smith after Dan Thirkell headed back Youhill’s corner.

Thirkell himself saw a header saved and Harrop shot narrowly over for Eccleshill before the visitors levelled with a controversial penalty in the 89th minute.

Skipper Lenehan was adjudged to have pulled a shirt as Knaresborough defended their area, and although few in the ground spotted any foul, Antony Brown fired home from the spot for 1-1.

The final five minutes were played out in a surreal atmosphere as Eccleshill were happy to see out time and take their point to increase their advantage in the league table over third-placed Grimsby, while the full-time whistle sparked jubilant celebrations from the home contingent.