A FOUR-FIGURE crowd saw Winchester City clinch promotion to the Southern League Premier Division for the first time in their history with a 4-1 win against Bristol Manor Farm.

Both teams sent into the playoffs in good form and both teams had achieved excellent away wins in the playoff semi finals. Their successes in these meant that both teams fielded unchanged teams and Winchester had the same 16 as featured on Tuesday.

The importance of the occasion meant that some fans with a long association with the club made a 350 mile round trip to see the match and both sets of fans were in good voice.

Winchester MP Steve Brine said: "Wow! Brilliant afternoon at Winchester City Football Club where we have today been promoted to Southern League Premier Division for the first time in the clubs' history. 4-1 winners over Bristol’s Manor Farm in the play-off. Congrats to all players, officials and volunteers at our community football club."

Winchester made a bright start and almost scored in the second minute, but the effort was blocked. However, Winchester did take the lead in the seventh minute when Warren Bentley's first effort was blocked by Bristol Manor Farm captain Aron Robbins, but he followed up to score.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City celebrate a goal, photo: Gary Marsh

Winchester continued to have very much the better of proceedings and Ollie Balmer was denied by a goal line clearance and Jamie Barron went on an excellent run, but shot just wide. Winchester were also working hard to close the visitors down whenever they broke.

Winchester scored the all important second goal when Ben John in the Bristol Manor Farm goal saved Ollie Balmer's initial effort and Craig Feeney followed up to extend Winchester's lead.

Feeney was in again in a position to follow up after Balmer's initial shot was blocked, but this time his effort went wide.

Hampshire Chronicle: Post-match celebrations for Winchester City, photo: Gary Marsh

Bristol Manor Farm had a free kick in a dangerous position, but Winchester were able to clear their lines. Just before half time Bristol Manor Farm had their first serious attempt on goal, but Owen Howe a player with the habit of scoring vital goals at crucial times had his effort tipped over.

Hampshire Chronicle: Post-match celebrations for Winchester City, photo: Gary Marsh

Early in the second half Balmer forced a good save from John, but the all important third goal did come in the 56th minute when Craig Feeney and Simba Mlambo combine with the latter scoring. Shortly after the goal Winchester make their first substitution with Henry Brooks replacing Feeney.

Bristol Manor Farm though began to play with more urgency and with 20 minutes remaining Jake Gosling takes his chance well following a good team move. By this stage Winchester had bought on Max Smith for Warren Bentley, but as Bristol Manor Farm continue to press with Winchester looking dangerous on the break Charlie Philpott made a couple of good saves, one of them from Steve Kingdon knowing that a second Bristol Manor Farm goal would set up a tense finale.

Hampshire Chronicle: Post-match celebrations for Winchester City, photo: Gary Marsh

Winchester bought on Oli Bailey for Jamie Barron, by which time the visitors had also made all three substitutions. Bailey almost scored, but the visitors defence just do enough to close him down. However Winchester make the game safe when Max Smith scores in the final minute of the game. There are joyous scenes from players and fans after the final whistle with the celebrations continuing for a couple of hours after the game has finished. Many clubs both Southern League and local and players both local and those with rival clubs are amongst those who pass on their congratulations on a wonderful achievement and of course fans who have supported the club through thick and thin are able to savour this success.

Message from the editor Kimberley Barber

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