After one of the most thrilling finale’s the NCEL Division One has seen in recent times, it was Hull’s number one amateur side Hall Road Rangers who picked up their first ever title, seeing them promoted to the Premier Division for only the second time in their history.
A brace from young striker Josh Batty in their final game of the 2016/2017 campaign away at Bradford based side AFC Campion sent the travelling players, staff and supporters into ecstasy as the full-time whistle blew.
The climax of the season was all you could want from a final day thriller, with a win for Rangers guaranteeing their status as Champions. Anything else though, and Rangers would likely be looking at the play-offs. And the game wasn’t without its controversies!
Batty bagged his first in the 9th minute, getting his head on a deflected Chris Spinks free-kick. But the hosts hit back; Rangers would play 65 minutes of the contest with 10 men as Gareth Owen was sent off for bringing down Eli Hey in the box. Jason Davis calmly stepped up and fired Campion level from the spot.
The game’s talking point though came in the 29th minute. With Hall Road on the attack, the linesman flagged for offside. However, unknowingly to most of the Campion players, the referee had overruled his assistant and allowed play to continue. With the goalkeeper placing the ball on the ground as it to take a free-kick, Batty charged forwards and fired the ball into the net.
It doesn’t get much more controversial than that, with large protests from the home side. However, on reflection it was arguably the right call. The absolute definition of why you play to the whistle!
Credit to the home side though, who had nothing to play for. Campion piled on the pressure after the break with Phil Dobson doing an excellent job to keep their shots at bay.
But Rangers did hold on. The scenes at the full-time are everything amateur football is all about.
The story of the Haworth Park club over the last 12 months pretty special. To go from finishing 17th and being, in reality, relegation candidates and potentially heading down to the Humber Premier, to actually winning the league is an incredible feat at any level.
Even just a few weeks ago, it looked certain the league title and even automatic promotion had gone, with AFC Emley and Pontefract running away in their own title battle. But as the two West Yorkshire sides stumbled, Rangers carried on banging in the goals.
Dave Ricardo set a target of a spot in the top 6 and a points tally of 61. In reality, it’s a good job they went above and beyond that because that wouldn’t have only just earnt a 10th placed finish. Rangers tripled their tally of last season with the best defence in the league helping them on their way.
At the back, NCEL Player of the Season nominee Ash Dexter has led the side earning him a spot in the league’s Team of the Season. With the likes of Sam Belcher, James Piercy and James Whittingham alongside him, they’ve been just as important as the goal scoring assets at the other end of the pitch in Chirs Spinks, Josh Batty and Joe Cooper.
So where do the club go from here? Well, nobody is under the impression that next year will be easy. But the crop of players they already have will be able to compete. Trips to local rivals at Bridlington Town and Goole AFC will be the highlights of the year.
And personally, I’d urge people to get down and come and support the boys next season. I only joined the media team back in January and it was clear to see from the start what a well-run, family friendly club I’d become involved with.
Many have the impression this level of football can be very boring. But it’s simply not. Rangers play an entertaining style of football under the leadership of Dave Ricardo and Billy Gill, and I promise you, you’ll be entertained.