|With the Division 2 Cup final taking place at 10:30am, the Alliance title decider at 11 o'clock and the Division 1 Cup final at half past one in the afternoon it was always going to be a busy day. Cup final special with pictures to follow later.|
About three week's ago a guest post appeared in the Shoutbox. “The Premier Division title will go all the way to the last game of the season with Poulton only needing a point”. I'd already looked at the run in for both teams. Quilligans had Arcadian, Red Rose Catering and Cahoots still to play before Poulton on the last day. Arcadian had already beaten Quills earlier in the season and both Red Rose Catering and Cahoots had each taken a point in the first league fixtures. All three sides were in a decent run of form. With a congested fixture programme due to external and domestic cup competitions taken together with a mounting list of suspensions and injuries things didn't look good.
As for Poulton, they had Highbury to play twice before Quilligans on the last day. Surely, Highbury would have been aware of Quilligans run-in and realised that six points off Poulton may have been enough to secure runners up spot. In summary, I thought that one or both of the contenders would have 'blown up' prior to today and that one way or the other it would have all been over by now allowing me to conveniently watch both of the Divisional Cup finals but inconsideration meant that it wasn't to be. The mysterious soothsayer in the Shoutbox had been proved correct.
Still, who could possibly complain about the BFSFA title going all the way to the last game. In recent week's the other five Divisional titles had been wrapped up and when it came to league action only the Premier Division title remained. Would it be Quilligans or Poulton who would be crowned champions? Long time leaders Poulton required a point whilst the current champions needed a win. A last gasp Palmer free-kick had secured all three points in the first league meeting betwen the sides. That still represents Poulton's only league defeat of the season. More recently, Poulton had ended the curse of never having had a previous victory against Quilligans in league or Cup with a narrow 1-0 win in the Premier Division Cup semi-final.
Seven days is a long time in Sunday football. With Quilligans going for a win in the 40th Gledhill Cup final next Friday night this would be the crucial week of the season. The double would be great, the league or the Gledhill would be more than satisfactory but coming away with nothing would be disappointing. They're a team packed with players who know how to win, are used to winning and who hate to get beat
As for Poulton, they're at the top on merit. Some clever moves in the transfer market had strengthened the squad. Team spirit has always been there for Poulton but this season an element of true self belief appeared to have been added. This morning, they never had a better chance of winning the league. With a Premier Division Cup final to look forward to on May 11th a famous 'Double' was also well within their grasp.
A big crowd and perfect spring playing conditions helped set the stage for the title decider. Few would have envied refereee Sandy Gear this morning but he was one of the few that looked totally calm and relaxed as his whistle began a much anticipated ninety minutes of top class Sunday morning football.
RIP Alan Ball
Broadbent maintains his height advantage over Josh Wood.
After an even opening Quilligans opened the scoring. A cross from the right was half cleared to Steve Palmer who played it back out wide. The Poulton defenders had pushed up to try and claim an offside but it didn't work. The square ball was played in quickly and with keeper Wood hopelessly exposed Paul Cooke had the simplest of tap ins to put his team 1-0 to the good.
Paul Cooke (Left) makes no mistake for the opener.
Robbie Boal arguing with the referee.
Sean Lawler stretches for the ball.
On 17 minutes Poulton were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position but Rowe blasted it over. On twenty minutes Poulton's 'high line' was beaten as Sugden raced clear but his cross shot evaded the far post.
Stuart Bracewell in trouble with Mr Gear.
Phil Thompson's shoulder is injured and manger Spedding takes advantage for some coaching, “With Thommo's shoulder injured the last thing we need is you being sent off so cut out the backchat Bracey.”
Just before the break Poulton created their best chance of the match. Clever footwork from Danny Rowe ceated a shooting opportunity for himself but Whiteside was alive enough to paw his 20 yard effort around the post.
Half time score : Quilligans FC 1 – 0 Poulton SFC
On 55 minutes a quickly taken throw-in created a good chance for Sugden but his shot went wide. Quilligans were well on top with Poulton failing to create. When they did get balls into the box they were at a comfortable height for keeper Whiteside.
Highbury FC boost the crowd.
Poulton keeper Josh Wood.
On sixty-seven minutes the title was won. My man of the match Paul Roberts was playing one of his more offensive games today and his powerful runs forward were causing the visitors difficulty. He took the ball down the left, cut inside and drove it accross and in the picture below a Poulton defender could only deflect the ball into his own net. 2 – 0.
A minute later it was almost three as a one two between Roberts and Thompson saw the latter cross for Palmer who hit a post. The rebound fell to Roberts who's shot whizzed past the post.
Roberts' cross shot somehow finds the target.
The important two goal cushion is achieved.
Robbie Boal arguing with the referee.
After the second goal Poulton made some changes and to be fair the injection of pace by the number two had them looking more like the team they are. Poulton's rhythm picked up and they played their best football of the match but despite the increase in possession they couldn't create a clear cut opportunity.
Sandy Gear with the crowd on his back.
Final score : Quilligans FC 2 – 0 Poulton SFC
The Alliance title then settled on the final Sunday of the season. For most of the neutrals it didn't live up to the pre-match hype as the game was rather flat for long periods. Poulton really needed to score first in this game to put the pressure on but in all honesty they never much looked like scoring all day. They missed Fegan's creative input. However, they've had a great season only losing twice in the league and reaching the final of the Premier Division Cup. I have to say that football in Poulton is on the up and with the sides doing in well in the West Lancs they seem to have a conveyor belt of young talent coming through so the signs look very good for next season.
Quilligans deserved their win today and the final and all important league table of the season never lies. You have to give them credit for coming through a very tough series of fixtures in the last couple of months so well done to manager Mark Spedding and his team. Quilligans remain the team to beat. Poulton came very close this season and can count themselves unlucky but dropping six points against the eventual champions can afford them few complaints.
Roll on next season.