Clipstone were last night celebrating promotion to the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Premier Division in style after a superb 3-0 away win at Worsborough Bridge.
The Cobras began the night in second place in NCEL Division One, four points behind Pontefract Collieries FC with one game in hand.
With Pontefract losing to Hallam, this win means that Clipstone need to win their remaining two league game to clinch the title from under their rivals’ noses.
What a season it has been for Clipstone, also playing in the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history and reaching the Nottinghamshire Senior County Cup final plus promotion in manager Chris Millington and assistant managers Steve Whitehead and Chris Bullock’s first season in charge, and chairman Brett Marshall’s last season with the club.
Millington paid tribute to everyone associated with Clipstone, saying: “This season is down not only to the hard work of the playing staff, but just as importantly to the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes - the whole committee (Brett Marshall, Dave Paling,Barry Clark, Mick Flinton and Nigel Spalding).
“My coaching staff are been absolutely amazing people. They all deserve this promotion, and the other successes the club have achieved.”
This game had drama throughout and tension mounting with Clipstone having most of the scoring opportunities.
The first chance went to Clipstone in just the second minute after great team play. Rob Paling, with a throw-in midway inside the hosts’ half on the left, found Callum Mawby who flicked on to Jamie Smith. He set up Matty Ord, who with a first time half volley fired at goal. On this occasion the ball carried on rising over the bar.
On 12 minutes it was Nick Siddons on hand to show everyone how he keeps goal under pressure. A Worsborough corner from the right fell towards goal at the far post and Clipstone’s keeper calmly snatched the ball off the head of an attacker.
On 20 minutes Clipstone were forced into a early substitution, Stu Hill unable to carry on after falling awkwardly when fouled by a Worsborough forward. He was replaced by Blake Owen with Mawby dropping back to centre half to cover.
Luke Thomas was so unlucky not to open the scoring on 23 minutes as Smith and Matty Ord combined well, with the latter shooting at goal. The home keeper spilled the ball which bounced two yards out where the brave Thomas put his head in the danger area, He looped his header beyond the keeper, but a defender managed to get back just in time to clear off the line.
Worsborough were very keen in the tackles and picked up two yellow cards in quick succession, Adam Askwith and Rob Adgie the recipients.
Clipstone were looking to create chances at every opportunity, Blake Owen winning the ball back well just before the interval. He moved the ball to to his right side but, just as he was pulling the trigger, a defender got back to poke the ball back to his keeper.
In the first minute of the second half Clipstone win a corner over on the right. Matt Austin’s set piece was met by the head of Mawby, the keeper clutching the ball well from underneath the crossbar.
In a rare moment inside the Clipstone area, Worsborough’s Mark Stuart attempted a speculative effort with his back to goal after a cross from the right, the ball missing Siddons’ left post by inches.
As time went on you could feel the tension rising in the Clipstone camp, even though they were still making great chances, the ball just would not nestle inside the Worsborough goal.
On 57 minutes Ash Rawson combined well with Luke Thomas wide left. Thomas’ cross eventually found its way to the far post where Smith just got too much under the ball, and his effort flew over the bar.
It did not take long for Smith to turn his and Clipstone’s fortunes around.
Blake Owen laid the ball off to Smith and, with his back to goal, he worked a shooting opportunity 20 yards out and fired low to the left hand post, beating the keeper and giving Clipstone that vital opening goal on 58 minutes.
On 75 minutes a nasty late tackle on Clipstone’s Rob Austin saw Mark Stuart feel the full force of referee David Evans, showing a straight red card.
This would be a double blow for the hosts as Paling took the free kick on the halfway line towards the left hand side of the penalty area, and Jamie Smith pulled the ball to the far post where Blake Owen kept his composure to slot the ball home from six yards out on 77 minutes.
Just five minutes later it was all but over. Paling, making ground down the left, and upended 25 yards out.
Smith swung the free kick to the far post where captain Rich Mintoft was on hand to poke the ball beyond the last defender to secure the three points, and promotion for Clipstone.
COBRAS’ MAN OF THE MATCH: Jamie Smith.