Managers discuss title celebrations

Joint managers Joe Conneely and Courtney Hunter-Belford reflected on the “unbelievable” feeling of seeing their Hinckley AFC side lift the Midland League Division One trophy.

Hinckley’s final home game of the season at Kirkby Road was played in front of a record crowd for a regular season league fixture of 419 – the second time this season that the club have broken that record.

After the win over Bilston, many of that crowd stayed behind to watch captain Danny Fraser lift the trophy, and the bottles of champagne were sprayed to celebrate becoming the first Hinckley team to win a league title since United won the Southern League Midland Division in 2001.

Hunter-Belford dedicated the achievement to those fans, and says they’ve earned it after a 10-year wait at step six.

“It’s been a long time coming for the club. To break the attendance record for a league game, to see so many young kids, and so many people who we’ve grown fond of over five years here. To give them something back for their commitment is something we’re massively proud of.

They’ve not had it easy, they’ve followed us from ground to ground but they’ve been so committed. Our attendances are up around 25% this season, which shows people want to come here and watch football.

“We try and give value for money in terms of the way we play. We want people to come and see us. Days like today mean so much to everybody, and this is what you’re in it for. Luckily this year we’ve managed to do that.”

The league championship was secured with a win at Heather St John’s seven days earlier, and Conneely admitted it had been a long wait to finally get their hands on the trophy.

“We were looking forward to this day for a week. It’s been a brilliant day. We said we had to make the most of today by winning the game. You don’t want to celebrate after a bad result.

“We don’t just rely on 11 players, this is a squad achievement and to finally do it after all this time is fantastic.”

Conneely said he was pleased with the performance against Bilston but admitted his side weren’t at their best.

“We lost a bit of control at 3-0. They deserved their goal but that lifted us again and we got that control back. We went against the wind first half and there weren’t many chances.

“Early in the second half we were fantastic. Ranks’ free-kick was a special goal and to get that early in the second half was fantastic. Then we scored another brilliant goal to finish it, Chandler’s was a fantastic assist. He gives you so much more than just goals. We’ll manage him slowly but he’ll start at Smethwick so he can have a run out there.”

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