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Warrington Town win play-off final to set up promotion crunch at home

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Pictures John Hopkins

WARRINGTON Town are one game from promotion to National League North after winning their play-off final 2-1 at South Shields.

Josh Amis fired home the winner three minutes from time to complete the turnaround and crown the Yellows Northern Premier League play-off champions with their third victory over the north east side this season.

They had trailed at the break to Josh Gillies fine first half strike, but the introduction of Amis, who has missed several weeks through injury, sparked a turnaround that started with Dylan Vassallo’s equaliser on 67 minutes.

The Yellows started strongly and carved out a chance in the opening two minutes, Tony Gray and Bohan Dixon linking up to release Jack Mackreth down the right and his low ball was steered over the bar by Jack Dunn.

South Shields were struggling to play their usual style out from the back under a high press from the Yellows, who got through the first quarter of an hour as the dominant side.

They were dealt a blow on 20 minutes though, when three minutes after having a free-kick saved by the ‘keeper, Dunn was forced off injured to be replaced by Vassallo.

Shields finally came to life and off their first corner of the game, there was a sustained period of play where they continuously got the ball in to the box without creating a clear cut chance.

Luke Daly drilled a shot wide before at the other end Gray’s ball in was just too far for Mackreth after Vassallo had won the ball back in midfield.

The hosts took the lead, perhaps against the run of play, on the half hour mark, a fantastic strike by Gillies who created space for himself on the edge of the box and unleashed a shot in to the top corner.

That settled Shields, who finished three points ahead of the Yellows in the final league table, and they took their 1-0 lead in to half time.

In front of a crowd of 2,337 at Mariners Park, Warrington came out at the start of the second half looking for an equaliser and the excellent Mackreth perhaps could have got more when he got to the byline twice and just couldn’t find Gray with a pull back.

The introduction of Nathan Lowe off the bench gave Shields some impetus, and he nearly scored with his very first touch. A slip by Shaun Beeley gifted possession and Carl Finnigan was slid through, denied by the legs of Tony McMillan, with the rebound falling for Lowe who struck it goalwards only to see it cleared off the line by Dave Raven.

There wasn’t going to be many chances to score and Warrington made sure they took their next one on 66 minutes.

Mackreth scampered down the right hand side and got a good cross in, Amis managed to get a flick to it and then Vassallo fired it home on the half-volley.

The visitors were enjoying a strong spell in the game and South Shields were struggling to respond.

They chucked on big forward Ben Harmison with seven minutes to go, but the imperious Mark Roberts and Raven had any Shields attacks snuffed out.

Extra time looked inevitable until the 87th minute, hard-working Mackreth winning a free-kick close to the touchline and the ball was delivered by Vassallo, kept alive by Ben Garrity and Amis swivelled to shoot home left-footed and silence the home crowd.

A Shields siege was expected, but it never came, Warrington had broken them.

They did think they had nabbed what perhaps would have been an unjust equaliser in the third minute of added on time, Daly’s shot going in to the side-netting in a way that half the crowd celebrated a goal.

Warrington held on, and were presented with the play-off trophy which in a normal season would be enough for promotion – but due to the re-structuring of the leagues, the Yellows must do it again next Saturday against the winner of Monday’s Central League play-off final to secure promotion to tier six of the English football pyramid.

South Shields: Connell, Baxter, Lough (Foley), Shaw, Morse, Turnbull, Daly, Briggs, Finnigan (Harmison), Mason (Lowe), Gillies.Unused subs: Brown, Callaghan.

Warrington Town: McMillan, Beeley, Whittle, Garrity, Roberts, Raven, Dixon (Amis), Evans, Gray, Dunn (Vassallo), Mackreth (Benjamin). Unused subs: Cusani, Duggan.

Chairman Toby Macormac celebrates with fans

Players celebrate

Manager Paul Carden and players celebrate

CLICK HERE for a gallery of pictures by John Hopkins

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About Author

Journalist and sport content specialist, who is also editor of Love Rugby League. Formerly ran the official website of the Carling Cup, as well as operating a digital services business in Warrington.

1 Comment

  1. Well they deserved it on the day without doubt, having to play at South Shields who’ve easily got the biggest crowds in the Northern Premier League and had won 4 promotions on the bounce. Looking ahead, Warrington can hope to make the National League North, but their biggest challenge is to attract more fans with home crowds to match their progress in the pyramid because, even with their success, they struggle to get more than a few hundred to watch them at home, in what is still primarily a Rugby League area. The Champions, Farley Celtic, have the same problem as Warrington, just 300-400 souls turn up to watch them at home matches despite their success, which doesn’t bode well. It reminds me of North Ferriby United who achieved incredible success on the pitch but now just about folded. South Shields however is a big town of 75,000 which is traditionally football mad and they have been in the football league (many years ago) with a proud history, there’s no Rugby to compete with there, and they could certainly expect crowds of 3,000 plus if promoted higher. They should be able to put aside this season as a temporary blip in progress, the club is reborn and I expect them to move to National League status in the short term with Football League status once again a realistic possibility in the future.

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