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With the season now at a close, it’s time for SD’s annual review of the performance of all our supporter-owned clubs up and down the country.
At our clubs’ highest level, League One, AFC Wimbledon secured their place for another season with two wins and five draws from their final seven games. A visit to Wembley to play Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup 3rd Round was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the season, a season when a return to Plough Lane in their home borough of Merton was also confirmed.
In League Two, after an excellent season, Wycombe Wanderers gained promotion back to League One for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Exeter City’s second successive run to the play-offs once again ended in defeat at Wembley - this time at the hands of Coventry City - after a superb semi-final win against Lincoln City. Exeter also played Premier League opposition in the third round of the FA Cup where they were defeated 2-0 at St James Park by West Bromwich Albion.
Elsewhere in League Two, Newport County avoided a repeat of last year’s final day escape by consolidating in eleventh place but enjoyed the bonus of a memorable FA Cup victory over Championship side Leeds United, with a last minute winner at Rodney Parade, and a home fourth round draw with Tottenham Hotspur that eventually saw them lose 2-0 in the replay at Wembley.
In the National League, Wrexham once again finished in the safety of mid-table but their near neighbours Chester were, unfortunately, relegated back to the National League North.
In National League North itself, Bradford Park Avenue reached the play-off semi-final where they were beaten by FA Trophy winners and beaten play-off finalists, Brackley Town. Darlington’s return to their home town (and a change back to their original name) saw them finish in twelfth place in the National League North regularly attracting crowds well in excess of 1,000. In the same division, FC United of Manchester’s men’s team was overshadowed by their treble-winning women’s team as the former finished slightly below their previous two years’ finishes, in 16th.
Bath City, whose community projects continue to go from strength to strength, finished a respectable ninth place in a particularly strong National League South whilst in the Bostik Premier Division, Hendon made it all the way through to the play-off final before to succumbing to Dulwich Hamlet at Tooting – a game that attracted over 3,300 spectators.
Enfield Town and Tonbridge Angels both finished their seasons in mid-table in the same division and they will be joined in the league next season by Lewes who, when not championing the virtues of their admirable Equality FC project, were vying with Carshalton Athletic for promotion from the Bostik South, finally finishing in the second promotion place on the final day of an entertaining season. Meanwhile, Grays Athletic’s first year in the Bostik North saw a 16th place finish.
Back in the northern leagues, Scarborough Athletic, on their own return home after ten years in exile, gained promotion to the Northern Premier League and enjoyed a run to the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup – the furthest they have travelled in the competition since their reformation. Their final game of the season, which saw them gain promotion in second place, was watched by a crowd of over 2,000.
Hyde United finished the Northern League Division One season in 3rd place and were promoted to the Northern Premier League once again. Both our other supporter owned clubs, Bamber Bridge and Prescot Cables, met each other in the play-off final where a late Bamber Bridge winner sealed a 1-0 victory in front of over 1,600 fans at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
Merthyr Town couldn’t repeat last year’s run to the play-offs in the Southern League Premier Division and Banbury United and Dorchester Town once again finished in mid-table in the same division.
In the North West Counties League Premier Division, Runcorn Linnets improved on last season’s third place finish by winning the league and amassing 100 points from 44 games. Elsewhere in the division, City of Liverpool FC finished fourth, above 1874 Northwich in seventh and Congleton Town in 15th. Unfortunately, AFC Liverpool’s 20th place meant relegation to Division One. They will be replaced in the Premier Division by Litherland REMYCA who were promoted by finishing second in Division One
On their return to the Southern Counties East First Division, Fisher FC finished a creditable 3rd, Peacehaven and Telscombe finished in seventh place in the Southern Combination League, Saffron Walden Town finished in 11th place in the Eastern Counties Premier Division, Hinckley AFC finished sixth in the Midland League Division One and Newark Town finished 17th in the Central Midlands League North.
Unfortunately, Newport (IOW) finished the Wessex Football League Premier Division season in 21st place and were consequently relegated to the First Division, however, Wythenshawe Amateurs were second in the Manchester League Premier Division and therefore promoted to the North West Counties League Division One South next season where they will be playing at their new ground opened during the early part of 2018.
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