CARL Macauley described it as a journey when asked to sum up Witton Albion’s achievement following a play-offs final victory against Spalding United on Saturday.
After covering more than 3,000 miles with his team this season, the analogy is fitting.
Their push to win the Northern Premier League’s Division One South title came up short despite amassing a record points total for a runner-up.
To keep alive their promotion hopes, they had to add two more wins to the 31 they had already racked up.
If that brought with it pressure, and Macauley admits as much, they disguised it well.
“I’ve never been so nervous – I didn’t sleep on Friday night,” he said.
“I was desperate to finish the job, which is why I was so emotional after the final whistle.
“We’ve broken records, scored 100 goals and done this or that but they’re only numbers if we didn’t beat Spalding.
“It would have meant nothing.
“I’ve won finals as a player, league titles too, and not been worried because I could control better what was happening on the field.
“As a manager you talk to players and give them instructions, but it’s up to them to carry it out.”
And they did exactly that.
After a goalless stalemate in the first half, they were rewarded for sustained pressure at the start of the second with a brilliant individual goal by Brad Bauress.
Leon Mettam’s equally exquisite strike levelled before captain Anthony Gardner applied the finishing touch at the end of a devastating counter-attack to seal victory his side deserved.
Macauley said: “We were the better side, and I felt we did enough to take the lead.
“Brad’s goal was fantastic, and I thought it would take a set piece for them to get back into the game.
“To be fair, their lad has scored a wonder goal.
“But we simply don’t know when we’re beaten, and the desire, commitment and determination of this side was there for everybody to see again.
“Anthony has done brilliantly to get there. Tactically, we’ve worked hard to be a threat on the break.
“We’re a fit side, with stamina.
“What a moment for the captain to score a goal that gets us promoted.”
Witton’s supporters spilled on to the pitch, just as they had done following a play-offs final victory at Curzon Ashton five years earlier, following the final whistle.
One of Macauley’s biggest triumphs has been to reconnect the team with its followers, and that sense of momentum has been powerful during the second half of the season.
He added: “To see so much red and white on the field left me lost for words.
“I’m so happy to have delivered success to this club, grateful as well that they have me the opportunity.
“The fans stuck by us, and were there when we needed them.”