Spartans South Midlands Football League Division One
Buckingham Athletic 0 London Lions 1
Having secured promotion 48 hours earlier, Lions secured the title on Saturday thanks to Ben Ellis’ strike and other results going their way.
It was fitting to win the championship on a glorious sunny day and at Buckingham on a ground Lions haven’t been successful at in three years other than a cup win earlier in the season.
Lions were one again missing several big players, but still adapted their rotation policy that has worked wonders in the last three weeks. Without the centre-half pairing of Guy Morris and Michael Sacks, it went to Craig Ellis and Adam Myeroff to take up the slack with the former putting in a Man-of-the-Match performance.
Jake Gottlieb returned to left-back and Ricky Engleman back from his South American travels was given a start at right-back. Andy Glynne and Dean Nyman were given a rest on the bench.
It was a tight game for the first 45 minutes. Neither side were able to establish any rhythm due to a rock hard pitch which made it impossible to play. It meant that for long periods a lot of long ball was being played by both sides with the end result either seeing the ball going out of play or being cleared into touch to avert any danger.
Chances were few and far between. Lions had three good efforts with Ben Ellis, Sam Sloma and Adam Bolle going close, but the home side matched that total and also had some decent chances. As it was the score remained goalless as the referee blew his whistle for half-time.
The second half started off in the same vain with neither side dominating with the pitch once again being the dominant factor.
However, as the game entered the last 20 minutes there was a sudden swing in fortune. Lions seemed to be getting on top regarding possession and started to carve out some decent chances.
The first of those chances fell to Josh Kennet but he blazed just over when well positioned. Bolle then had a good shot well saved followed up by an audacious effort from Sloma from 20 yards.
It was almost certain that this game was going to finish 0-0 with Lions delighted with a point for their efforts.
Then with barely five minutes left on the clock the visitors took the lead with a bit of magic from Kennet and a great finish from Ben Ellis with his head that was worthy of winning any game. Skinning his full-back, Kennet delivered the perfect cross which Ben Ellis read to perfection out jumping his marker and heading home powerfully to send the visitors into raptures.
It was a fitting goal and fully deserved especially for Lions endeavour in the second half. The referee ended proceedings following three minutes injury time. As the Lions warmed down news rached them that Cockfosters had been held to a draw at home by Bedford meaning Lions surged 10 points clear with three games to play…the championship was won and what a tremendous day for the club.
A delighted and very proud Lions manager Tony Gold said: “Under tremendous pressure and unbelievable strain these players have come through the other side and produced a quite remarkable achievement.
“When March and April’s fixtures came out and we saw who we had to play and when, and given the nature of the fact that we had three games a week over a month, we knew how extremely hard it was going to be.
“To win nine and draw two of those eleven games including fixtures against Cockfosters, Harpenden, Kings Langley and Crawley Green the lads fully deserve to win this league. Over the course of the season I believe we have proved to be the best and the league table now shows that and we still have three games to play.
“Our goal now is to hit the 100 points barrier and finish the season in style. Next Saturday at Rowley Lane will be one to remember for many, many years to come.
“It has been a tremendous team effort from the players to all the individuals behind the scenes of which there are many. Winning the Herts County Premier Division was special, winning the Spartan South Midlands Division One league has far exceeded that. This league has some big clubs that have been established for years at this level, so to win it in only our third year is something that the players must be extremely proud of and enjoy for as long as they can.”