Wealdstone are the Ryman League Premier Division champions.
After a couple of weeks when the proverbial fat lady had teased us by warming up before disappointingly failing to break into song the crown was claimed on a nervous but ultimately joyous night on the Kent coast. And in something of a fairy tale the goal which sealed the title was scored by a young man called Charlie Penny.
The teenager from South London, released by parent club Millwall during this loan spell at The Vale and who was dropped to the bench for this critical occasion popped up with the winner seven minutes from time.
Victory meant events at Hampton where their only challengers Bognor were beaten were rendered irrelevant.
In keeping with recent weeks Stones looked weighed down by expectation from the start and Jonathan North needed to be alert with five minutes played, sprinting from goal to hack clear as Charles Ademeno closed in.
Gordon Bartlett’s men responded briefly with Tom Pett’s cross headed over by Scott McGleish, but they were largely under the cosh and were mightily relieved to escape punishment on 24 minutes when Sam Rents’ excellent cross from the left found Jefferson Louis unmarked at the far post.
It was the sort of chance the experienced front-man has made a habit of burying down the years yet he shot wide from just a few yards out. Perhaps the footballing gods were preparing to smile on the men of the Vale.
Moments later McGleish’s troublesome calf gave way again and he hobbled off to be replaced by Penny.
The only side who could deny Stones the title, Bognor were 2-0 down by now, but this news had not filtered onto the pitch where the visitors continued to struggle.
Pett forced one save from Nikki Bull, but North produced a better one to deny Charlie Allen and Gate were close again before the interval when Ademeno’s shot was deflected wide by Sean Cronin.
Stones emerged more composed after the break and Scott McCubbin went close with a shot from just outside the box as the visitors got more of a share of the ball.
Hearts among the fans were lifted further by news of Hampton making it 3-1 at the Beveree meaning promotion was tantalisingly within reach.
A fourth soon afterwards cranked the volume another notch, but Margate caused a few flutters when Louis headed wide with 12 minutes to play. However, The roof lifted off with seven minutes left as Stones scored the goal which surely clinched the crown.
Pett did the damage with an incisive run and when he slipped inPenny he rounded Bull and slid the ball home.
The rest of the game was played in a party atmosphere and there was a lovely touch from Bartlett as stalwart Peter Dean was brought on from the bench to savour the last few minutes.
The final whistle cued the inevitable pitch invasion,but it wa all good natured on a historic night for the club.
The Conference South awaits.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Parker ©, Cronin, Godfrey, Little, Pigden, McGleish, McCubbin, Pett, Subs used: Penny, Dean, N/u: McCluskey, O’Nien, Hamblin.
Match Report by Jon Batham, Harrow Observer
Picture by Steve Foster