Farsley Celtic 4 Hinckley United 3

Conference North AT the home of the Brewers, it was Farsley Celtic who were last night able to toast a place in next season's Conference after a quite remarkable comeback.

With just 11 minutes remaining of an absorbing play-off final, the Throstle Nest club's hopes of a third promotion in four years appeared to be evaporating with Hinckley leading 2-1.

The drama had only just begun, however, with an equaliser from Damian Reeves looking to have handed Farsley a lifeline only for the Midlands outfit to regain the lead four minutes later through the game's outstanding performer Neil Cartwright.

Lee Sinnott's side then dug deep and with just three minutes remaining they were level again after a bullet header from Ryan Crossley, who had sprung the Hinckley offside trap, flew into the net.

Then, to cap what has to be the best night in the Leeds club's history, referee Richard West awarded a last-minute penalty for a foul on Gareth Grant and Simeon Bambrook duly stepped up to fire the resulting spot-kick into the net.

It left the Hinckley fans in the 2,495 crowd stunned and condemned to a few days in which they will surely drown their sorrows, in contrast to their Farsley counterparts who will return to Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium next season as a member of the Conference, or Bluesquare Premier as the top flight in non-League football will be known in 2007-08.

It is a remarkable achievement by Sinnott and his players with the magnitude perhaps best illustrated by the fact only five other clubs in this season's Conference North have boasted a lower average attendance than Farsley's 380.

Celtic had gone ahead courtesy of a cool finish on 15 minutes from Gareth Grant after Roy Stamer's incisive delivery from the left flank had caught out the United defence.

Despite that, there was little doubt Hinckley, who had done the double over Sinnott's men in the regular season, deserved to go in at the break ahead against an unusually hesitant Celtic defence.

In the absence of the injured Carl Serrant a cross from either flank was enough to cause mass panic and it was no surprise the equaliser should come at the end of an almighty scramble after a corner was not cleared, allowing Sam Shilton sufficient space and time to curl a shot into the net from the edge of the area.

The evening took a further turn for the worse for the Leeds club just two minutes later when a mis-cued shot again caused problems for Sinnott's defence and that allowed Cartwright to score from close range.

Farsley also had a couple of let-offs during the opening 45 minutes with Cartwright crashing a shot against the crossbar and only a brilliant save by Tom Morgan prevented Leon Jackson's curled effort finding the net.

It proved crucial as the comeback was underway when Reeves latched on to Crossley's ball over the top before drilling a shot into the net. Cartwright may have restored Hinckley's advantage, but the resilience and will to win that has characterised the club's charge from UniBond First Division to the Conference was enough to ensure Farsley will mark their centenary in 2008 just one division below the Football League.

Farsley Celtic: Morgan; Downes, Crossley, Iqbal, Serrant; Watson (Tuck 75, Sugden 90), Knowles, Bambrook, Stamer (Allanson 57); Grant, Reeves. Unused substitutes: Walls, Cuss.

Hinckley United: Bowles; Storer, Love, Birch, Shilton; Cartwright, Lavery, Nurse, Jackson; Marrison, Brown. Unused substitutes: Story, Haystead, Cooper, Palmer, Platnaueur.

Referee: R West.


Coca-Cola League Two, Play-off Semi-final 1st leg

Shrewsb'y (0) 0 MK Dons (0) 0

Att: 7,126

Conference North

Play-off final

Farsley Celtic (1) 4 Hinckley Utd (2) 3

Grant 15 Shilton 19

Reeves 79, 89 pen Cartwright 21, 83

Crossley 87