Clitheroe win the 2003-04 NWCFL Division 1 title
Breathless Clitheroe manager Lee Sculpher hailed his side's character after clinching the North West Counties First Division title. The Blues needed a point from their final game of the season at Nantwich Town and they made sure, winning 3-2 courtesy of a late Neil Reynolds strike.

Sculpher admitted, after missing a chance to seal the championship at home last week, it was apt that his away-day experts settled matters on the road: "The bottom line is that, unfortunately for our home spectators, our away form has been magnificent this season and that is the one reason we have won the league"

"To only lose 2 games away from home all season at any level is unbelievable and it just shows the character in the side. That final 20 minutes, at 2 apiece, a lot of teams would have folded, but everyone stuck at it and what a magnificent achievement."

The culmination of Reynolds' goal and the relief at the final whistle sent both players and supporters alike into raptures, turning the after match celebrations into a champagne-sprayed frenzy. And Sculpher admitted: "I can't describe how it feels. At halftime were were 2-0 up and then in the second half one goal goes in and you think 'that's alright, we'll finish 2-1', but they equalised and you just didn't know how it would go. So when the winning goal came it was absolutely fantastic, a great winning goal, the build up to it, the movement and what a great finish by Neil Reynolds."

Reynolds came off the bench to score the winner and the Blues boss had nothing but admiration for his composure as he praised his players: "People like Neil, who has struggled with an injury last week, probably thought he should have played but he kept his head up before the game when he was told he wouldn't be starting, and he's come on and netted the winner. All people will be talking about from now on is Neil Reynolds, a great finish and an absolutely fantastic way to win the league after not doing it last week."

After coming so close to the title on so many occasions, Sculpher was overjoyed for everyone connected to the club: "It's brilliant, I'm just over the moon and so pleased for people at the club like our groundsman, kitman and club stalwart Keith Lord who has been here so long, treasurer Terry Nelson and Barry Beck who puts in a lot of work behind the scenes. But I've got to thank all the spectators that follow us up and down the country. They're always there, come rain or shine, home and away, they're always there encouraging us."

Gary Jackson, whose double strike saw the locals take a healthy 2-0 lead, was also praised for the way he has come back from a broken foot sustained earlier in the season. Sculpher said: "There is no one more delighted than me for Gary, he's a local lad done well. Dave Burgess and I recognised his talents 3 seasons ago, he's a prolific goal scorer and given these opportunities he will score goals for you. At times, by his own admission, he's not the fittest lad but he's worked hard this season and when statistics come out he will have scored something like 14 goals in 18 starts, which says it all. But it makes you wonder how many he would have scored this season if he hadn't broken his foot. And it also points at how good he could be in the future."

But Gary Jackson's not on his own, as the rest of the squad have proven themselves above and beyond, something the Blues boss is keen to stress and hopes shall continue next season. He said: "Martin Aspinwall is another local lad who was out 18 months due to injury but he came back at Christmas and has been magnificent since. I could go around the whole team, Lee Cryer leads by example, Paul Stansfield, new to the club last season, has had a fantastic season but I must say Barrie Hart has been outstanding for us, and one of the reasons why we have won this league title is down to Barrie Hart. The man is made of steel - he hates to get beat."

He added: "Hopefully now that we have won something, this will be the start of great things to come, because it is a winning habit and sometimes it only takes one step to go on a winning run. Looking ahead, we'll look to bring in one or two new additions but me and Martin Eatough would like every one of the present squad to be there for this new adventure that we are going to embark on come August in the UniBond League"

Read the match report and players' reactions here

For photos from the day click here
Press cutting courtesy of Clitheroe Advertiser and Times

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