Lucy Waldon rounds up the final day of fixtures in the Conference
As the 2013/14 season drew to a close, it went down to the final day to see who out of Aldershot, Chester and Hereford would be relegated alongside Dartford, Tamworth and Hyde – and in the end, it was decided on goal difference. At the Rec, where Aldershot hosted Hereford, it was the Bulls who went ahead, Sam Smith netting before the hour mark. A draw wouldn’t be enough for them if Chester picked up three points and the home side levelled 15 minutes from time to set up a nervy finish – through a Manny Oyeleke strike from the edge of the penalty area. With only moments remaining, Michael Rankine met Dan Walker’s cross to send the visitors home with maximum points and staying in the Conference for another season.
Meanwhile at the Deva, Chester went ahead twice against Salisbury, but failed to hold on for the vital three points that would have kept them up. Danny Carlton opened the scoring for the hosts with 15 minutes on the clock, but Salisbury found themselves level before the end of the first half – Charlie Sheringham with a near-post header. A curling cross from John Rooney had Chester back in front in the second half, but it was heartbreak with five minutes remaining, as Jamie White snatched a point for Salisbury.
Elsewhere, top met bottom as Luton travelled to Hyde. A slender victory for The Hatters saw them break the 100-point mark for the season, while their opponents finished on just 10 points with only one win all campaign. Alex Wall grabbed the game’s only goal, firing home on 70 minutes.
Gateshead cemented their place in the play-offs with a 2-0 win over Cambridge, who finished the season in second. A point would have been enough, but the Heed were on their way to victory once Colin Larkin broke the deadlock. And the points were sealed once Rob Ramshaw was quickest to pounce on Ryan Noble’s parried effort. The Tynesiders are set to face Grimsby (who drew 0-0 with Braintree at the weekend), while Cambridge will meet Halifax (who were held 1-1 by Kidderminster) in the play-off matches. At the Shay, the hosts were straight out the traps, with Josh Wilson’s header arriving in 50 seconds; Nathan Blissett cancelled out that effort, with his equaliser on half an hour.
There were plenty of goals at the weekend and fans at Park View Road were treated to a seven goal thriller, as Welling hosted Southport. Ross Lafayette put the Wings in front, before a 35-yard volley from the visitors’ Luke George had them on level terms. Port went on to take a two-goal advantage – Vikky Mukendi and John O’Sullivan adding their names to the score sheet – before a second half comeback from the home side rewarded them with maximum points. Harry Beautyman reduced the deficit with his curling free kick and the equaliser came minutes later, through Jake Gallagher. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Aristote Nsiala received a second yellow for handball in the box, reducing the away side to 10 men and Lafayette stepped up to grab his second goal of the game – meaning it ended Welling 4, Southport 3.
A second half brace by Jessy Reindorf wasn’t enough to restore some pride to the home contingent at The Lamb, as Tamworth ended their stay in the Conference with a home defeat against Woking. The visitors went in at the break with a two-goal cushion, courtesy of Giuseppe Sole’s header and Scott Rendell’s close-range effort. Reindorf pulled one back for the hosts before the Cards restored their two-goal advantage – Rendell netting his second. Reindorf’s double meant that three goals were scored in six minutes but Woking were triumphant when Kevin Betsy’s injury time strike secured the win.
Elsewhere, Lincoln and Barnet shared the points at Sincil Bank. In a lively encounter, Ahmed Abdullah’s sixth minute penalty gave the Bees the lead, but Nathan Brown’s shot from a few yards out had Lincoln back on level terms almost immediately. Kris Bright put the Imps in front within 40 seconds of the second half starting, with Ben Tomlinson making it three. Iffy Allen pulled one back for Barnet before Jake Hyde grabbed the equaliser in the sixth minute of added time, registering his 12th goal of the season.
There were also wins for Nuneaton and Macclesfield at the weekend. Nuneaton faced already-relegated Dartford but it was the Darts who took the lead in their encounter – Rory Mc Auley netting early on. It was then the Louis Moult show with the striker bagging a hat-trick. The Darts lead lasted less than 10 minutes, with a 12-yard strike levelling matters. Moult’s second came on half an hour, before he completed his treble shortly after the hour mark. Meanwhile, Macc put an end to their run of winless games, finishing the campaign with maximum points. Just as their game against Alfreton looked like ending honours even, Scott Boden popped up to convert a last minute header.
In the division’s only other game, Forest Green and Wrexham shared the points – although the visitors left it late to snatch a draw. Having been in front for the majority of the game – after James Norwood opened the scoring in the game’s first 15 minutes – Johnny Hunt’s last-gasp penalty levelled things at The New Lawn, after an ultimately disappointing season for both clubs.