It was a close run thing in the end, but Frickley Athletic were able to celebrate holding onto their place in the Evo-Stik Premier League as they collected the point they needed from a draw in their final game of the season.
The Blues went into the game at home to Curzon Ashton knowing a draw would be enough to ensure their safety from relegation and they duly got it with a 1-1 result achieved courtesy of Macaulay Parkinson’s first half goal.
But they had to endure a tense finish as a second Curzon goal would have put them down with rivals Marine pulling off a shock last day win at Blyth Spartans.
In the end Frickley finished 19th, sixth from bottom, with Witton Albion relegated on the final day after squandering a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Stamford, who pulled off their great escape.
In their own dramatic last league game Athletic looked set for victory when Parkinson’s 32nd minute opener was an excellent 25-yard free-kick which gave Curzon keeper Hakan Burton no chance. It came four minutes after the visitors had Lee Pugh sent off for a bad challenge on Jake Stannard.
Manager Karl Rose kept faith with the same starting 11 that played out the goalless draw at Ramsbottom United on Tuesday night, but Luke Jeffs was fit to return to the bench.
The Blues were positive from the start and on five minutes Jake Stannard looked to have sent Reece Thompson clear, but he was tugged back 35 yards out by Jonathan Hunt who was lucky not to receive a caution. Parkinson’s lofted free-kick was then comfortably dealt with by Burton.
A good run from Brad Dockerty four minutes later saw the youngster set up Matty Bloor to put a low 25-yard shot wide and Frickley should have taken the lead on 21 minutes. Gavin Allott played a ball over the defence for Thompson to chase and he got the better of Simon Woodford 20 yards out to take the ball round Burton only to steer the ball into the side netting.
The visitors faced an uphill struggle when they were reduced to 10 men in the 28th minute with Pugh seeing red for his tackle on Stannard in front of the away dug-out, which led to a small fracas and Parkinson receiving a yellow card.
Parkinson was soon celebrating, however, as his superb curling free-kick gave the Blues the lead.
Allott sent Thompson clear again on 38 minutes, but this time Woodford did well to get back and prevent the striker from getting in a shot at goal.
Frickley rode their luck a little in the 49th minute when Ben Simpson failed to collect a high cross from Woodford as he was challenged by Niall Cummings with the ball striking the head of John Cyrus and bouncing goalwards only to be hooked off the line by a great clearance from Parkinson.
Allott had the ball in the net on 57 minutes, but his effort was disallowed for a foul by Thompson on Chris Rowney.
Curzon started to throw players forwards more in search of an equaliser and went close on 71 minutes when Ben Simpson collected Ryan Brooke’s shot on the turn at the second attempt following a corner.
Four minutes later the visitors got their equaliser when Brooke did well down the left before sending over a perfect cross for Cummings to head past Simpson from close range, despite the keeper managing to get hand to the ball.
Allott met a Parkinson corner with a powerful header straight at Burton in the 83rd minute, but both sides were content to settle for the point, so much so that as the game entered stoppage time Simpson was stood with the ball at his feet for nearly a minute before a Curzon player ventured near him forcing him to pick up.
At the final whistle both sides celebrated with the Blues guaranteeing Premier Division football next season and Curzon ensuring their participation in the end of season promotion play offs.
Frickley Athletic: Simpson, Parkinson, Stratford, Stannard, Cyrus, (Jeffs 78), Ible, Hinsley, Bloor, Thompson, Allott, Dockerty.