April saw the 2016/17 Vanarama National League season come to an end with the Lions looking safe at the start of the month but after an inconsistent last few weeks it all came down to the final game.
The month started with a trip to bottom of the table Southport who had struggled under their new manager Andy Preece. After a close first half Kevan Hurst’s powerful shot settled the match in the 72nd minute pushing our points total up to 49 the same amount achieved for the entirety of the season before.
Title challengers Forest Green Rovers were next to visit Nethermoor Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Christian Doidge’s 26th minute header was enough for Mark Cooper’s men to all but secure a play-off place. Controversy followed 10 minutes into the second half when Jake Cassidy was dismissed for an apparent elbow leaving him out of action until the last game of the season.
A Good Friday trip to Braintree was next up for the Lions as we pulled ever closer to the dreaded relegation trap door. The result made things worse for Adam Lockwood’s men as second half goals from Jerome Okimo and Michael Cheek saw the points stay in Essex.
Things did not get any easier as 2nd place Tranmere Rovers visited Nethermoor with the title still within their reach. Derek Asamoah’s excellent finish from 30 yards opened the scoring after 33 minutes. However Rovers completed a second half comeback with two goals in eight minutes from James Norwood and Andy Cook.
The pressure was on as we travelled to Bromley with several teams at the bottom playing each other, a win could have seen our safety secured. However Bradley Goldberg’s finish after just four minutes for the hosts was not the ideal start. Then we lost Will Hatfield to injury midway through the half and both Jake Lawlor and Marcus Williams were then withdrawn at half-time having picked up knocks. Jordan Preston replaced Hatfield and scored the equaliser with a curled finish five minutes after half-time. This and results elsewhere ensured our safety was in our own hands when Solihull Moors visited Nethermoor on the final day.
An early kick-off didn’t dampen the atmosphere at a packed Nethermoor Park as we looked for the vital three points which would ensure our place in the Vanarama National League next season. With Jonny Maxted, Marcus Williams and Will Hatfield all out injured Dan Atkinson, Danny Lowe and Jake Cassidy all returned with one of them becoming the final day hero. Dan Atkinson faced an early test from the penalty spot but denied Regan Charles-Cooke with a brilliant save. However just a few minutes later he couldn’t stop Omari Sterling-James’ free kick from flying into the top corner. Nerves continued at Nethermoor as York were drawing with Forest Green and the Lions needed a win to ensure safety. Lockwood’s men found an equaliser in the 90th minute, Danny East’s long ball forward was headed in by captain Danny Lowe to send Nethermoor into raptures. A 10 minute wait followed for the full-time score to come through from York but it was worth it in the end when our safety was secured.