Pictures - They did it! Banbury United are league champions
Andy Whing's side drew 1-1 with Tamworth, but Coalville were also held 0-0 by Hednesford Town
PICTURES BY JULIE HAWKINS
Banbury United's 1-1 draw proved enough to clinch the Southern League Premier Division Central title with four games to go.
Second-placed Coalville Town were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Hednesford Town, which meant Banbury's point was enough to celebrate becoming champions - and earning their place in National League North for next season. They are an amazing 20 points clear at the top of the table.
In front of a fantastic crowd of 1,835 at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium, Tamworth took a 15th-minute lead when Shaquille Whittingham’s half-volley from just outside the area screamed past Jack Harding in the Puritans goal.
The visitors held that advantage at the break, but Banbury equalised on 64 minutes with a calm finish from Jack Stevens.
However, in the first minute of stoppage time, the home side were given a golden chance to win the game when they were awarded a penalty.
But Jasbir Singh saved Giorgio Rasulo’s spot-kick and the game ended all-square – only for celebrations to begin when news of Coalville’s draw filtered through.
Banbury have 90 points from their 36 games, with Coalville 70 from 34, which puts the Puritans out of reach. Peterborough Sports in third spot are on 68 after 35 games.
Speaking to Puritans Radio after the game, happy manager Andy Whing was full of praise, not only for the players but everyone involved behind the scenes that has made it possible and made it a wonderful day. He said it's a big thing not only for the club, but the town and massive for the whole community.
"When I first joined the club everyone said it was a sleeping giant and we should be pushing up into the higher echelons - and we have had a fantastic season and got ourselves into the National League and Step 2 which is unbelievable," he said.
"We will enjoy today and I hope everyone enjoys today - and thank you for everyone's hard work.
"It doesn't happen over night, even before I came into the football club, I can't name everyone who has been fantastic for the football club. It has been hard work. We had a strategy, a structure, a plan. This doesn't come as a fluke, we have been working on this for two years now. Even when Covid hit we were working on how we could improve, what was needed to be better and everything has come together and I'm absolutely delighted and really pleased for everyone - the volunteers, the staff, the board, the fans, it's been a magnificent day for everybody."
He said they had looked at changing things in terms of athleticism and dynamism, bringing in players who wanted to strive to be better.
"We needed people in this building who want to push their careers further and we got that," he said. "They have been absolutely outstanding, everybody.
"We have changed the type of people, changed the culture and added things to be more professional, act as a Step 2 club. Everything has fallen into place and we are really happy, obviously.
"Our consistency levels have been absolutely outstanding. To be 20 points clear with four games to go is remarkable, whatever happens in the last few games. Full credit to everybody for keeping their feet firmly on the ground."