Congratulations to Great Eccleston who have been crowned SportsReach League champions for the 2016-17 season. ‘Eccy’ have been the standout team in this season’s competition; strong at the back, incisive in midfield and with real firepower up front. It is their first league title since 2013 and they have sealed their triumph with two games to spare.
Manager Rob Tomkins strengthened his team last summer with a number of acquisitions and players such as Sam Hogarth, Toby Parker and Tom Shields have bolstered what was already a strong team.
Eccy rubber-stamped their title victory with an impressive 3-1 away victory at Longton and demonstrated their resolve in a game where they were on the back foot for large parts but dug deep, defended stoutly and counter-attacked with real flair.
The league’s top scorer, Dan Ball, edged Eccy in front midway through the first half with an excellent finish from 15 yards; controlling the ball with his right foot before snapping a left-foot shot across the keeper. Longton created a host of chances but their finishing was wayward and also saw themselves denied by the woodwork twice. Great Ecc punished the home team early in the second half with a breakaway goal; substitute Ben Clark tapping home from a rebound. Longton quickly pulled one back with an excellent turn and shot from Dave Sharp, rasping a low drive into the bottom corner. But with the home side pushing forward for the equaliser, Eccy sealed their win on the counter through Dennis Pulford after a midfield runner had beaten the offside trap and squared it for the striker.
Despite their impressive away win, Great Ecc weren’t to know that they had been confirmed champions until other results had come through. The other key result at the top of the table was in Carnforth where Lancaster had travelled to Loko. Reigning champions Lancaster had been in uncharacteristic form, suffering from a number of absentees in recent weeks, and they were unable to turn that form around – falling to a 2-1 defeat. It was a terrific win for Loko who themselves have struggled this season for a consistent line-up; they scored two second half goals through player-manager Andrew Towers and striker Glen Hamner. Lancaster pulled one back late on through their top scorer Tom Luxton but it wasn’t enough and defeat confirmed that Great Ecc would end the day as league champions.
Elsewhere, League Trophy finalists Wray hosted Fulwood who were having an excellent league campaign themselves and were full of confidence after last week’s away victory at Lancaster. It proved to be another successful away day for Fulwood who conceded twice in the opening 15 minutes but grew into the game and ultimately came out on top. Wray forward George Whitaker grabbed both goals for the home side whilst Adam McLoughlin and Jordan Bate had Fulwood on level terms at the break. The match was won in the final five minutes as Fulwood strikers Calum Alexander and Matty Leach ensured that the three points were heading back to Preston.
1st April – League Results
Longton 1-3 Great Ecc
Dave Sharp 61 // Dan Ball 25, Ben Clark 57, Dennis Pulford 82
Loko 2-1 Lancaster
Andrew Towers 62, Glen Hamner 75 // Tom Luxton 82
Wray 2-4 Fulwood
George Whitaker 5, 14 // Adam McLoughlin 12, Jordan Bate 35, Calum Alexander 85, Matty Leach 89