It was a bizarre day in Tameside as Buxton secured the Northern Premier League Premier Division title despite a 1-0 defeat to mid-table side Stalybridge Celtic.
A goal from Justin Johnson after just four minutes of play won this tie. However, thanks to a three-point advantage and a superior goal difference over second-place South Shields, it meant that despite the scoreline, Buxton would be celebrating the title at full-time.
Following last weekend’s vital one-nil win over local rivals Matlock Town, Bucks manager Steve Cunningham made one change to his side as Nathan Fox replaced Lindon Miekle in the starting 11.
Bathed in the mid-April Sunshine, it looked like it was Stalybridge who had something to play for as they started the game brighter and, in fact, they took the lead after just four minutes of play when a long ball over the top found Johnson. He advanced on goal before lifting the ball over the head of goalkeeper Theo Richardson, who was left stranded in no man’s land to open the scoring.
Meanwhile, for Buxton, they certainly struggled on a poor pitch, and you could tell that they were a side that was used to playing on the carpet, such as the 3G surface that they have at the Silverlands stadium. Alot of their passes were not coming off for them, and it took them until the 38th minute for the visitors to create their first proper chance of the afternoon. That chance came when winger Ash Chambers shrugged off three defenders as he advanced towards the goal. However, the former York City and Kidderminster Harriers man saw his shot fly just wide of Grant Shenton’s goal.
After the interval, Buxton put in a much-improved performance, with Jamie Ward seeing his shot blocked by a defender after a corner found its way to him. Shortly afterwards, Warren Clarke played in Chambers, who saw his effort comfortably saved by Shenton.
Shortly after these efforts, news from Lincolnshire started to filter through that Harry Woods had given Grantham the lead over South Shields. The announcement of the goal ensured the party could start at Bower Fold because it would have been some effort from the side managed by Kevin Phillips to turn the situation around at this point.
Stalybridge keeper Shenton had to be alert on 71 minutes when Ward forced him into a fine save as the former Derby County forward cracked a shot from around 25 yards out. However, Shenton was able to punch the effort away.
They had an even better chance to equalise with just two minutes left on the clock as a corner fell to James Hardy at the near post. However, the Buxton midfielder was to see his effort rattle the crossbar when many in the ground thought the Bucks were finally level.
Towards the end of the game, Buxton had several corners as they looked for an equaliser. Sadly for them, their set-piece taker found his radar was off as he overhit all of his dead-ball situations over everyone’s head and out for throw-ins, much to the frustration of the Buxton fans.
At the sound of referee Josh Hall’s full-time whistle could finish, Buxton supporters raced onto the pitch to celebrate their title-winning success. The highlight of the celebration was when the chairman of the Northern Premier League, Mark Harris, presented Buxton captain Josh Granite with the league championship trophy, who held it aloft to signify Buxton are the champions of the Northern Premier League.
Congratulations to everyone associated with Buxton on winning the Northern Premier League. They will be playing National League North football next season for the first time in their 145 year history.
Stalybridge Celtic: Shenton, Nyaupembe, Brogan, Quansah, O’Halloran, Killock, Padden (Inneh, 89), Doyle, Correia, Harris (Jones, 76) and Johnson.
Unused subs: Ubah, Varela and Leach.
Buxton: Richardson, Curley, Newton (Hardy, 65), Cowan, Granite, Fox, Ward, Chambers (Heaney, 72), De Girolamo (Gilchrist, 63), Elliott and Clarke.