|At the ground of Poulton Town FC, Cottam Hall watching the latest twist in the Division 2B title race. Long time leaders Progress Property Management FC needed a win to overhaul the Shovels FC and secure their second league title in succession. Opponents Fylde Coast Gates FC really had to win the game themselves to keep their strong title hopes alive.|
'Super Sunday' (Part 1) at Cottam Hall this morning as Progress Property Management FC (PPM) took on Fylde Coast Gates. Division 2B was still finely poised as was Division 3B and the Premier Division. There were important games across the Fylde in all three Divisions this morning.
At start of play the Shovels FC were top of the league on 49 points but they'd finished their programme last weekend. A strong finish where they'd taken sixteen points from the last eighteen available had given them a chance of glory. PPM were one point behind and this was their last game of the season and as such their final opportunity to take over at the top. A win would guarantee them the title and a draw would also take them to the top but still leave them vulnerable to a late charge from this morning's opponents Fylde Coast Gates.
After winning the 3B title during their Alliance debut last season PPM settled quickly in the higher Division and up until about five week's ago looked as though they would stroll to the title. After an early season league defeat they went unbeaten until late March. The wobble began with a 2-1 away defeat in the Division 2 Cup to Talbot Sports & Social followed by a league draw to the Central Club who'd taken three points of PPM back in August. Two league defeats against Extrasense and the Shovels in successive matches have left them in this difficult position.
Earlier in the season they beat both the Shovels and Fylde Coast Gates away from home so they clearly have the talent to win matches but unusually for 'Team Pretty' self-confidence had taken something of a hit both individually and collectively during March. Defeat this morning would be a hugely disappointing end to the campaign and almost certainly put back their ambitious programme of reaching the Premier Division in three seasons.
Opponents Fylde Coast Gates have finally come good in Division 2B after many seasons challenging for promotion. Although they've always provided stiff opposition for teams on the way up they've rarely challenged for a Division 1 promotion slot themselves. They finished sixth in the 2004/05 season and went one place better in 2005/06 but with teams like Red Rose Catering, CTK FC and Hydronics passing through they've struggled to mount a serious challenge. However, an eighteen game unbeaten run on the pitch has left them with a half decent title of winning the 2B title as well as gaining promotion. The team's makeup of youth and experience has produced a decent side. Having their 1-0 win over the Shovels overturned for fielding an ineligible player may yet cost them.
Going into the game Gates were in third place on 42 points with three games left to play. They were six points behind PPM and seven points behind the Shovels. A win today would take them on to 45 points and two more wins in their remaining matches against Foulds Metals and Stanley Arms, Wesham would be enough. A draw today would not see the end of their challenge but PPM's superior goal difference of +13 would probably be enough to see them crowned Champions and leave Gates needing six points to finish runners up on goal difference.
Whatever happens it's been a season to remember for Brian Carr's men. In the Gledhill it took Premier Division Highbury to knock them out and in the Lancashire Sunday Trophy they pushed our very own Clarence Hotel all the way before going down 3-1 at Seafield Road. Next Sunday they take on 2A's Gardeners Arms in the final of the Division 2 Cup.
Could Gates pull off a famous league and Cup double? Could PPM steady the ship and clinch the title with a win? Could the match end in a draw and see Gates drop points in their remaining two matches to leave the Shovels as Champions? Who knows?
At last we had a light soaking of rain overnight but it hadn't significantly altered the hardness of the Poulton Town pitch. It's not often that the BFSFA gets a sniff on this pitch so many thanks to the groundsman.
Veteran whistler Tony Cunliffe was in charge of proceedings and in front of a decent crowd boosted by Shovels players and other interested neutrals we were punctually underway at 11am with the sun trying to break through the clouds.
Gates kicked off defending the railway end but both teams started the match tentatively not wanting to make mistakes. Oswell broke clear for Gates but he was quickly hunted down and the chance was gone. At the other end PPM had a header saved under the bar by the keeper but clear cut chances were very few and far between.
11:22 – No 6 off for a No 2. Never seen that before. We can only be thankful that the game wasn't being played on the far pitch at Commonedge.
PPM keeper Sam.
Just before the break PPM went close when a header from a corner flew just wide. Many observers were thankful when referee Mr Cunliffe blew the whistle to signify half time as it was a dire opening period with very few incidents of note.
Half time score: Progress Property Management FC 0 – 0 Fylde Coast Gates FC.
Referee Cunliffe gives Barney Woolcock a slap in the mouth (Only dreaming)
That dog's responsible for one less ball for PPM.
On 52 minutes Gates almost took the lead when Chris Shields was left unmarked for a long free kick. The veteran tried to place a clever header in the far top corner but it went inches wide. On 59 minutes Gates created their best chance of the match. A rare mistake by Thompson allowed a neat pass to find Henry Wright clear through on goal but needed an extra touch to get it on his left foot instead of having a dig with his right and this was enough for the keeper to come and grab it.
Wayne Binks' dodgy knee was enough for him to be replaced as was PPM's Woolcock who suffered a badly gashed and swollen ankle.
A PPM mix up at the back results in the No 9 having to hoof it clear and save his keeper's blushes.
Further enforced changes for Gates appeared to affect thir shape and as the half progressed PPM at last began to play some football. They were having a lot of luck down the right hand side and getting in some dangerous crosses.
On seventy minutes the deadlock was finally broken. PPM forced a corner after more good work down the right. The flag kick was delivered by Kieran Howarth and up climbed big centre half Al Thompson to send the ball looping over the Gates keeper and into the net. 1-0.
'It's there !' The Gates keeper is beaten by Thompson's header.
Woolcock temporarily forgets his injured foot to mount goalscorer Thompson.
PPM are still in need of a manager for next season. This fella seems the ideal candidate.
During the last twenty minutes it was PPM making most of the offensive play. Gates appeared to go a little flat and their spirit and passion appeared to lessen. They were failing to penetrate and create chances.
Good tackle !
He had to hold on to it and the PPM keeper did.
PPM go very close at the end but a good save from the keeper denied them.
Final score : Progress Property Management FC 1 – 0 Fylde Coast Gates FC.
They may have made hard work of it but the final table never lies and it will show Progress Property Management FC as Division 2B Champions 2006/07 so well done to them. They played some good football in the second half and enjoyed more of the posession. A very close game nevertheless and it rarely looked as though there would be more than one goal in it.
Fylde Coast Gates can have few complaints. They were beaten both home and away by the eventual winners and in all honesty we didn't see the best of them this morning but take nothing away from Progress they stood up to the challenge and got involved all over the pitch.
The season's over for PPM but Gates still have a couple of league matches to play with an all important Division 2 Cup final to play against the Gardeners next Sunday morning. Hopefully, knocks will have recovered along with spirits. Gates finish third in one of their best seasons ever.
My Man of the Match Al Thompson. One slip almost cost his side a goal but otherwise dominant in defence and popped up for the title winning goal.
Let the celebrations begin with Poulton's finest champagne. Division 2B Champions 2006/07 – Progress Property Management FC.