Buxton beat Matlock Town to all but seal NPL title after South Shields throw it away against Whitby Town

At 4.55pm on Easter Monday, amid jubilant scenes on the pitch with fans, players, management, coaches and directors mingling in celebration, Buxton had all but become NPL champions with only the remotest mathematical possibility of that being denied.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 9:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 12:31 pm
Lindon Meikle on the ball.
Lindon Meikle on the ball.

Buxton had all but become NPL champions with only the remotest mathematical possibility of that being denied.

Three points ahead of closest rivals South Shields and with a goal-difference advantage of 11, only two highly unlikely results will be needed next Saturday for the Bucks not to be champions and automatically promoted to the National League North.

Yet such a joyous outcome had seemed unlikely until as late as 4.50. Buxton had led from the 17th minute versus arch-rivals Matlock Town, while South Shields were 2-1 up on visitors Whitby Town.

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Callum Chippendale battles for the ball.

But Whitby first equalised then netted an 89th-minute winner, ironically scored by ex-Silverlander Jacob Hazel. News of that goal sent the home contingent into ecstasy.

The NPL crown was effectively theirs for the first time since joining the competition 49 years ago and after 38 full, plus two suspended, Premier Division campaigns.

Third-placed Matlock, including five ex-Silverlanders plus another as substitute and needing the points to cement their play-off place, proved to be the stubborn opponents their recent record of five consecutive clean sheets suggests.

Yet the Gladiators had scored only once in those five games and from the 17th minute were under pressure to net or leave pointless.

At the Ashwood End Tommy Elliott's corner-kick had been long-struck, with Diego De Girolamo curling the ball back for Dan Cowan to head downwards into the goal for his second in five games.

The hosts continued to press forward and created further openings despite resolute Matlock defending. Both Sean Newton, from a 21-yardsfree-kick, and Warren Clarke, from a half-cleared corner-kick, fired narrowly over the bar, while the visitors were twice denied progress by commanding home captain Josh Granite.

There were also examples of classy play, with Newton's superb cross-field pass for Matt Curley on the right flank, followed by fine Ash Chambers penalty-area work to create a scoring chance for himself from 17 yards, but his goal-bound shot was deflected for a corner.

Then, just prior to half-time, Diego DeGirolamo was twice close to doubling his team's advantage. Firstly, he managed to touch the ball over goalkeeper Paul Cooper without being able to finish. Then, from the ensuing corner-kick, he had a drive blocked close to goal.

The tension was palpable but the record crowd for a Buxton home NPL fixture (surpassing the 2090 for FC Utd's first visit in 2008) was being splendidly entertained and so it continued into the second half, with both sides looking capable of scoring.

More tricky Chambers footwork forced a corner and Curley's 40-yard cross-field pass set Jamie Ward away on the left, but under great pressure Diego couldn't net his low cut-back from the by-line.

In reply, Danny Greenfield turned Cowan but 'keeper Theo Richardson parried his powerful shot and from a corner a header was not far wide.

Still Buxton pressed forward continually in search of a clinching goal, with Cooper tipping a cross-cum-shot over the bar.

DeGirolamo then had a goal-bound drive deflected for a corner but Matlock's threat remained, with Cowan's defensive header clearing a cross. Indeed there was very late drama when Richardson had to save point-blank from a powerful Liam Hughes header as news arrived of South Shields falling behind.

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