On a glorious day at the Hive, the Bees prepared with a full team of 16. They knew that an 8 goal winning margin would win the title but realistically, South Manchester were simply looking for the 3 points.
It was, however, the away team who started brighter, passing and moving although not creating many clear cut chances after a stern display from starting centre backs Ashley Critten
and Patrick Souter
. The Bees found their rhythm and Mark Smith
began to get some space in the middle to create, with Jamie Stephenson and Antony Rigby
marshalling the wings.
South Manchester looked to use their pace and with the likes of Simeon Afonje and Tom Ainsley
getting chances down the left and right respectively, the Bees knew they could always beat their opposition for pace. And so it proved as a counter attack started by Alan Leonard
on the left, into Matthew Bottomley
in the centre who played in Richard Greenhough
. He found Tom Hornsby
through onto the keeper and Tom made no mistake from close range to make it 1-0. The Bees took this one goal lead into the break.
The second half began with a spell of possession for Sale. They won several short corners, all thwarted by Dean Colasurdo
in goal. However, after another stick save by the home keeper, the Sale striker picked up the rebound who then lifted it into the knee of Mark Scholes
on the line. No real doubt about it, penalty stroke awarded. The forward put it straight down the middle as Colasurdo dived right, his outstretched foot just missing it. 1-1 and Sale back in it just minutes into the second half. They could have gone ahead too, but Colasurdo was quick out to win a one on one with the onrushing striker to keep the scores even.
It wasn't long before the home team pulled away again, this time Gareth Hampton found space in the D before selflessly squaring to Jamie Stephenson to sweep in at the back post. An inspired substitution by coach Michael Waddicor paid dividends moments when later as slick inter play between Greenhough and Hampton lead to Greenhough running onto a through ball putting him one on one with the Sale keeper, calmly taking it round the on rushing keeper before slotting home to make it 3-1. Sale pushed to get back into the game but some resolute defending and a few good saves prevented this before Greenhough turned provider for Hampton who tied up the win 5 minutes before the end with a delicate lifted ball over the sprawling keeper.
4-1 to the Bees final score. The home crowd enjoyed the game and even though Sale took the title on goal difference, it was South Manchester who were celebrating after a successful season in just their second year of existence.
Man of the Match went to Richard Greenhough
whilst Rigby earned DoD.