Sport

RECAP: Pride and emotion as Accrington Stanley crowned champions

We pick out five key steps which paved the way to glory for John Coleman's men

Stanley celebrating their title win

Fans and players have spoken of their pride and emotion after Accrington Stanley were crowned champions to cap a stunning season.

Tears of joy and scenes of wild celebration met the final whistle for a second home game running - following the Reds’ promotion-sealing win over Yeovil - when Jordan Clark’s winner against Lincoln saw them lift the League Two title in front of a record Wham Stadium crowd.

A gate of 4,753 crammed in to the ground, with more peering down from rooftops and any available vantage point.

Seamus Conneely lifted the trophy on the pitch while being sprayed with champagne, before thoughts turned to this weekend’s end-of-season party at Swindon on Saturday and the club’s celebratory champions parade and dinner on Sunday.

Skipper Conneely was full of praise for the fans.

He said: “To see how much the fans have enjoyed this season just adds everything to it.

“They have been truly great and hopefully we will see them all here next year and give them plenty to cheer about again. Promotion was fantastic, but to go up as champions is just incredible.”

Player of the year Billy Kee said it was a ‘really emotional’ moment for him, adding: “I have played the game 10 years and have never had a season like this, I have never won a promotion. That shows how hard it is and the team we have got.”

Accrington Stanley's League Two title win celebrations. Picture by Louise Mary Elizabeth Phillips

Stanley fan Ian Reynolds-Young, from Huncoat, said the emotion was ‘incredible’.

He said: “At the final whistle I saw John Coleman and Jimmy Bell hugging each other with joy and tears came to my eyes. Being champions puts us on the map, we’re being talked about in wider circles and there’s an energy about the place.”

The trophy is on display at club reception and fans can pop down for a photo with it in return for a donation to Broadfield School’s minibus appeal.

Amid the fervour more than 950 early bird season tickets were sold for the 2018/19 campaign by Monday’s deadline with fans savouring the prospect of bigger clubs visiting Accrington.

Season ticket holder Matthew Howarth, from Great Harwood, spoke of the ‘amazing’ scenes.

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He said: “Supporting this club you feel part of the whole thing, you can touch it, so it felt amazing to see the players get the trophy and medals. It’s been superb this season. This team plays to win and never goes down without a fight.”

Fans watched the game from a nearby roof as Stanley sealed the title

The champions complete their league programme on Saturday with a trip to Swindon, and elated throngs will gather for an open top bus parade on Broadway in the town centre to celebrate the title win from 5.15pm this Sunday.

Five key steps to the title

Stanley’s triumphant season has seen plenty of highs during their march to the title.

Here we pick out five pivotal games along the way to glory with the help of supporters’ club chairman Peter Leatham:

August 5, 2017 - Stanley 3 Colchester United 1

First half goals from debutant Kayden Jackson and Billy Kee gave the Reds a dream start to the new campaign. Omar Beckles scored the third midway through the second period.

Peter: “Kayden Jackson scoring in his first appearance after just seven minutes set the tone for him and Billy Kee scored his first of many.”

August 19, 2017 - Stanley 2 Mansfield Town 1

Stanley took the lead in the 10th minute through Kayden Jackson, the forward’s fourth goal in three games. That lead was soon cancelled out but just as it appeared both sides would have to settle for a point Billy Kee popped up inside the area to secure victory.

Peter: “This was the second consecutive home win and being against Mansfield it showed that we could compete and get the better of teams with bigger ambitions and far bigger budgets.”

December 30, 2017 - Grimsby 0 Stanley 3

Stanley picked up their first win in five league games as they eased beat Grimsby Town. Billy Kee scored a penalty and goals from Sean McConville and Kayden Jackson sealed the victory at Blundell Park.

Peter: “We had lost four consecutive league games prior to this. Going into the game the game it by far the lowest point of the season. But the win started our brilliant run and we only lost one more time in the league until late April.”

March 3, 2018 - Luton 1 Stanley 2

Billy Kee’s last minute winner sparked memorable scenes in front of the travelling supporters as the Reds leapfrogged the Luton into top spot. Sean McConville had fired Stanley ahead on the stroke of half time. With the clock ticking in added time, Kee picked the ball up outside the area and slammed the ball into the bottom corner, the perfect moment to score his 22nd goal of the season.

Peter: “An afternoon which will stick long in the memories of Stanley fans who were there. To reach the top in that manner was incredible and fans started to believe that promotion and even the title was possible.”

April 17, 2018 - Stanley 2 Yeovil 0

Stanley secured promotion to Sky Bet League One with a 2-0 win over Yeovil. Player of the season Billy Kee crowned his achievement with two goals in three first half minutes and the party was set to begin.

Peter: “A special night to seal promotion and fitting reward for the hard work of the players and management over the season.”

Picture by Sam Liversidge