Calor League Div One South & West
Yate Town 1
Cirencester Town 3
CIRENCESTER TOWN won their first league title for 18 years when coming from a goal down to beat Yate Town in the final game of the Calor League season.
It meant the Centurions finished on 92 points, three clear of Merthyr Town, who now bid to win the second promotion slot against Tiverton Town, Paulton Rovers and Swindon Supermarine in the play-offs.
Cirencester Town turned the final game around with a magnificent seven-minute spell in the second half which produced three goals, while their season has been turned by an even more magnificent seven-game conclusion to the campaign.
All seven games were derbies, four away from home, and all were against sides in and around the play-offs – yet Cirencester won them all.
Above all the success at Yate was down to the indomitable character of the players and the man-management skills of their astute manager Brian Hughes who put this squad together on one of the smallest budgets in the league.
Yate had gone in front in the 37th minute when Jake Jackson side-footed home a cross from Lewis Haldane who had broken through the Ciren back line down the left channel.
Mike Bryant had earlier tested Glyn Garner with a header and Haldane himself put a first-time volley wide at the end of a first half in which the lacklustre visitors failed to muster a shot on target.
The half-time hair-drier treatment from boss Hughes prompted only a short-lived response from his players at the start of the second period and Yate were soon back in the ascendancy when, after some sustained pressure, James Harmer hit a first-time volley from Haldane’s nod down which went just wide of Garner post.
A forlorn and leggy Cirencester were at this point looking down the barrel of a defeat.
With main rivals Merthyr Town ahead in their final match and therefore facing the prospect of losing the title and the possibility of a play-off campaign with an utterly deflated team, Hughes swapped two midfielders for attacking players, introducing first Shane Bumphrey and then Jacob Davidge, two of the Town’s buoyant Development Team which had clinched their own Hellenic League title the previous Saturday.
Suddenly there was some youthful energy about Ciren’s play; nonetheless it was one of the experienced campaigners, James Mortimer-Jones who provided the turning point in the 70th minute.
‘Jonah’ was one of the few Town players who had performed to his normal high standards in the opening hour and Yate made the critical mistake of backpedalling as Ciren’s midfield fixer advanced on goal.
Jinking to his left to get a sight of goal 25 yards out, Mortimer-Jones unleashed a sweetly-struck left-footer that whistled past keeper Martin Horsell before wheeling away to the Ciren supporters and his two-year-old son George who was watching his very first game of football.
Suddenly the floodgates opened. Three minutes later Bumphrey outjumped Yate’s lofty centre halves, flicked on a back header and Lee Smith, anticipating perfectly, raced through on goal before coolly dinking the ball over Horsell for his 38th goal in all competitions this season.
The unlikely turnaround was completed in the 76th minute when the kids inadvertently combined for a winning one-two.
Davidge, having danced around two tackles on the left, rifled a goal-bound shot which cannoned back off the head of Bumphrey near the line and fell back to the feet of the winger. Davidge rather scuffed his second effort but it took a deflection before trickling over the line.
The youngster was too stunned to celebrate until he had been mobbed by his team-mates.
There was no way back for a now totally shell-shocked Yate side as Cirencester played out time and there even a late cameo from the retiring goal legend Jody Bevan in the final minutes.
The traditional champagne-doused post-match celebrations ensued and happily included suspended Ellis Dunton, injured club captain Shayne Anson and Chris Holland as well as the ever popular perennial substitute Dean Bromley.
Those celebrations went on long into the night back at the Corinium Stadium.
Any side that can win 16 league games on other teams’ grounds as Cirencester Town have done this term can rightly claim to be the best in the division – and they have the championship title to prove it.
Cirencester Town: Garner, Hooper (Bumphrey, 53), Bennett, Pritchett, Liddiard, Henry (capt), Shepherd (Bevan, 85), Mortimer-Jones, Wells (Davidge, 65), Davies, Smith.
Unused subs: Holland, Bromley.
Reaction in the Wilts & Glos Standard, as well as online, later this week.