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Champions Overview

Champions Overview

Kieran Wilson21 May - 15:57
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The Boro write history by topping the 2023/24 NPL Premier Division, read our overview below.

Radcliffe attained promotion to the National League North for the first time since our inception 75 years ago following a 2-1 triumph on the road over Whitby Town, sparking mass celebrations amongst the travelling Boro faithful. 

The last time Radcliffe won on the first day of the season, we gained promotion from the NPL West Division in 2019 and this proved to be the case in this campaign, starting our travels over in Cheshire.

This victory came over Warrington Rylands - who ended the season in the play-offs - setting the tone early on with an astonishing 4-0 scoreline. Within the first 90 seconds of the match, Jude Oyibo scored the opening goal of the Bernard and Jonno era before adding a second, later making the scoreline 3-0 and 4-0 before half-time through Josh Hancock and Jordan Hulme.

Six straight league victories followed, the most notable of which either being a magnificent 5-0 win over rivals FC United, or a thrilling seven-goal encounter with Worksop Town that was won in the closing moments thanks to a late goal from Brad Jackson. 

However, it wasn't all plain sailing as at the beginning of September, Radcliffe lost to Morpeth Town in the FA Cup first qualifying round to fall at the first hurdle of England’s biggest cup competition, conceding deep into added time to put a dagger in the Boro hearts.

After game-week eight, Radcliffe suffered their first league loss as a result of a 3-2 setback at the hands of Merseyside outfit Marine, whose explosive start proved to be the difference despite Josh Hancock’s late consolation.

Nobody could contest Radcliffe's reaction to the defeat however, returning to the Neuven Stadium to see off Whitby Town in the opening round of the FA Trophy, a match that would begin the journey to more history.

In the middle of October, 1705 in attendance witnessed an M26 miracle against Macclesfield which many have hailed as the season's best encounter.

Following a disastrous start that saw Radcliffe go 3-0 down inside 28 minutes, the Boro hit back with two goals on the cusp of half-time, later levelling the turns from the spot before Josh Hancock's sublime half-volley from 35 yards beat Connor O'Keefe in the Silkmen goal to complete the spectacular turnaround that saw the deficit reversed.

Along with the initial Macclesfield victory, Radcliffe would have three more successive victories after defeating Ilkeston Town, Ashton United and Stafford Rangers with relative ease, before progressing in the FA Trophy once again after a penalty shootout win away at FC United.

But soon after, high-flying Jonathan Margetts struck four times as Radcliffe were soundly defeated at the Proctor Cars Stadium against Matlock Town, recording our heaviest loss of the season on a miserable afternoon in Derbyshire.

Radcliffe would then go on to make amends when they easily defeated Farsley Celtic 4-2 on the road, a side placed mid-table in the National League North at the time, meaning they were just one win away from changing the club records.

For the second time in the season, we locked horns with Whitby Town at the Neuven Stadium and despite controlling the match, the Seasiders would steal a late goal to cause Radcliffe's first home league loss of the campaign at the end of November.

When word broke out that Radcliffe would be hosting Redditch United, the Boro embraced the challenge and defeated Redditch by four goals to zero, booking our spot in the fourth round of the FA Trophy for the first time in our history.

Warrington Rylands briefly came close to taking top spot with a 3-2 victory over Radcliffe during the Christmas period, as despite the highs of the Trophy, Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley’s side would suffer consecutive defeats for the first and only time this season, falling short away at Hyde United a week later.

Radcliffe would end the year on a high however, when we welcomed Bradford Park Avenue to the Neuven Stadium in a Boxing Day clash, Jordan Hulme’s tap in sandwiched between Josh Hancock’s double secured a 3-0 win to maintain our top spot going into the new year.

The Boro had the opportunity to make further history in the FA Trophy as we welcomed National League side Barnet to Greater Manchester in mid-January, and despite taking an early lead through Anthony Dudley, Marvin Armstrong would score twice for the Bees to sting Radcliffe and advance to Round Five after a valiant effort against higher league opposition.

Once more, the challenge of Robbie Savage’s Macclesfield loomed and a thrilling match resulted from Jordan Hulme's hat-trick which enabled Radcliffe to defeat fellow title favourites and secure yet another league double towards the end of January.

We’d only record three draws on route to winning the title, the first of which came after 28 previous fixtures. Two of the level games would come in succession and though Radcliffe's defence was constantly under pressure from Worksop for the first, the Boro remained resilient to hold on for a point.

The next played out at the Neuven Stadium against Atherton Collieries, a team we hadn’t, and still haven’t defeated at home since April 2022. The Boro were behind by two goals in the 88th minute, however Jordan Hulme's late goal provided some optimism before late hero Brad Jackson's strike saved a point once again in the 10th minute of added time.

Radcliffe were defeated three times in the final nine games that saw us win the title: one against Yorkshire outfit Guiseley, who are the only team to have defeated Bernard and Jonno’s team twice in the league this season, at home against Ashton United, and on the final day away at Gainsborough Trinity.

Memorable victories over Bradford Park Avenue and Matlock Town followed as April began, coming from 2-0 down to record a 3-2 win at the Horsfall Community Stadium, before Luca Navarro’s hat-trick secured a 4-0 victory to claim sweet revenge over the travelling Gladiators.

Finally, after months of anticipation, the title was ultimately secured when Radcliffe travelled to Whitby Town. Despite the fact that it turned out to be a match of few chances, Radcliffe prevailed via goals from Jake Thompson and Jordan Hulme in a 2-1 victory, emerging as the Northern Premier League champions.

However, the Boro still had two more tests in store. The first was a matchup with relegation-threatened Basford United, who only needed a point to stay in the league. Prince Mancinelli's tap in with the final kick of the match guaranteed the Ambers’ place in the NPL once more, verifying Stafford Rangers, Bradford Park Avenue, and Atherton Collieries as the parties demoted.

In front of a record-breaking crowd of 2351, Radcliffe lifted the NPL Premier Division trophy following the 1-1 draw to complete a monumental campaign at the Neuven Stadium, as the celebrations continued long into the night by everyone involved.

Bernard and Jonno’s side then travelled to Lincolnshire for the season's final fixture away at Gainsborough Trinity. This was an opportunity for the up-and-coming talent to shine; prominent alumni included Lewis Rawsthorn, Alex Francis and Brad Sullivan, who all featured at step three for the first time in their careers.

Unfortunately, Radcliffe would narrowly lose late on to taste defeat away from home, but our success, togetherness and a bright future was the bigger picture on the afternoon, ending our final Northern Premier League fixtures as we embark on a new journey into the National League North for the first time in the club’s history next season. 

By Jacob Cross

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