Celebrations ran long into the night for Carlton Athletic as they became champions of the West Yorkshire Premier League on Saturday.
A 4-0 win at Hunslet Club finally put them out of reach of the chasing pack in a division they have dominated this season, with 22 wins and two draws from the 24 matches they have played thus far.
Manager Mark Pitts hailed the mental resilience of the entire squad as a key reason for their stroll to the title:
“The attitude of the players has been absolutely spot on throughout the campaign,” he said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that collectively we have worked harder than any other team in the league.
“Fitness wins games in amateur football, and, to a man, we are the fittest side in the division this season,.
“We’ve been so much stronger at the back end of games, and that’s where you pick up points.
“The team spirit has been outstanding and we’ve got a really good, honest set of lads that we’ve managed to galvanise together as a really strong, formidable unit. It’s been an absolute pleasure for the likes of me, Jim Flynn and Tony Lewis to work with the squad. They all want to work hard.”
A brace from Joe Kenny and goals for Nathan Kemp and Anees Younis secured the 4-0 win in a match Carlton had control of from start to finish.
“We blew the league at Hunslet last year, and we are all aware of just how tough a place it is to go and get a result,” Pitts admitted.
“After the first 10 minutes we settled down and, to be honest, we dominated the game.
“Joe Kenny scored a screamer from 25 yards out to get us away and from then on it went just as we wanted it to. It was a good day.”
The side could have won the league a few days earlier, but Carlton fell to a last-gasp defeat at Horbury Town.
Pitts puts that result down to a refereeing mistake where confusion reigned over a late disallowed Nathan Kemp goal, after which Horbury bagged a winner themselves.
“It’s fair to say I wasn’t happy but that’s football,” said Pitts.
“You get some decisions and you don’t get others.”
With the league wrapped up, attention has turned to how the club goes about repeating the trick next season.
“It’d be nice to go and do it again, but it’ll be tough,” Pitts conceded. “At our level of football there’s no money and there’s no contracts, so keeping hold of players is difficult when you’ve done well.
“We’ve got a good bunch of local lads that have done well, and it’s only right that they get some attention.
“We’ve identified a few players and have always been looking at how we can strengthen [the squad]. Centre-back is somewhere we need a new player as Tom Greaves is still awaiting an operation for an ACL injury.”
For now, however, it’s time to enjoy the win, which, reckons Pitts, will only feel real when they get their hands on the silverware.
“This is the first title I’ve won as a manager, and the eighth time Carlton have won it,” he said. “It’s nice to have won it, but the feeling of being handed a trophy is when it really kicks in.”
The Carlton boss added: “We had a good night out on Saturday but we’ll be doing it properly when we get our hands on that trophy.”
Elsewhere in the division, Ilkley Town improved their hopes of beating the drop with a 3-0 win over relegated Brighouse Old Boys. James Turland, Lee Spires and Adam Davey did the damage for Town, who sit three points back on Robin Hood with a game in hand.
Robin Hood themselves crashed to back-to-back defeats, with a 2-0 loss at Leeds City in midweek, followed by a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Sherburn. City followed it up with a 3-1 Saturday defeat to Beeston St Anthony’s.
Horbury’s win over Carlton was the appetiser for a goals glut on Saturday, beating Wetherby 9-0. Gibril Bojang netted a hat-trick and Eoin Schofield two as the away side recorded their biggest win of the season.
Field were another goals-hungry side this week, as they followed up Wednesday’s 7-3 win at Beeston, in which Daniel Summers bagged four, with a 4-2 win at Headingley.
Earlier in the week, Headingley consolidated their mid-table position by edging past Pool 3-2, and Beeston St Anthony’s are through to the League Cup final after a resounding 3-0 win over Horbury on Monday.