A GOAL from Mark Waterfield was enough to sink Acklam Steelworks on Saturday and ensure Fishburn Park avoided relegation from the top flight of the Teesside League.
Park knew just a single point from their last two games was enough to stay up but title contenders Acklam meant getting a point was going to be a difficult proposition - especially with key players Al Price and Scott Thompson absent.
James Organ-Simpson was already ruled out for the remainder of the season, while Dom Wilson ruled himself out of the game after suffering a foot injury in a gardening accident and Dean Ward was not available until half-time.
There were also injury worries over captain Mark Waterfield, Rich Lane and Mark Tose, so the mood in the dressing room before kick off was understandingly sombre.
Injuries and absences became opportunities for some players and Callum Gibson was given a rare start, North Yorkshire under 18s star Ryan Braithwaite was given his first start since signing for the club before deadline day and these two, along with Callum Ward, made up an untried central midfield partnership.
Park manager, Al Price, got his tactics spot on as his young midfield trio, augmented by Rich Lane and Ryan Roe in wide roles, stopped the Acklam midfield from getting control of the game.
Strong defending by Sam Locker, Neil and Mark Waterfield and Mark Tose meant that keeper Paul Watson had few saves to make. Ian Smith occupied the lone striker role and, as so often this season, his tireless work rate and team ethics kept the visiting, rather physical, defence on their toes.
A scoreless first half was brought to an end and presented Al Price with three new problems when injuries to Mark Tose, Rich Lane and Ryan Roe required some shuffling around and Dean Ward, Rich Fletcher and Ollie Cooper replaced them in the first few minutes of the second half.
After the break, Ollie Cooper caused all sorts of problems for Acklam but it was Dean Ward who turned the game in Fishburn’s favour when he won a penalty on 71 minutes.
Waterfield converted with confidence under some pressure.
The expected reaction from Acklam was not forthcoming and Fishburn secured three points to avoid relegation. Although all the Fishburn players acquitted themselves very well it was the performances of Gibson, Braithwaite and Callum Ward that caught the eye as their energy in midfield was more than Acklam could deal with and brought a much-deserved victory.
Last season, Park were relegated from the first division only to get a reprieve at the league AGM when circumstances dictated the club should remain in the division by virtue of the majority vote of all team managers.
This time, the players did it on their own merit, despite losing seven of their number to other teams during the season.
The last game of the season takes place at home on 30 April when Fishburn take on nearest rivals Nunthorpe Athletic, kick-off 2pm at Broomfield Park. All supporters welcome.
Fishburn Park 1 Acklam Steelworks 0