Farsley Celtic stage the Great Escape to avoid relegation (again)

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Farsley Celtic fans celebrate staying up in National League North. Photo: John Baron

By John Baron

Farsley Celtic are rapidly redefining the meaning of ‘by skin of their teeth’ as they somehow avoided relegation on the last day of the season for the third year in a row.

The Celts, who started the day in the drop zone, staged their own version of The Great Escape thanks to a 2-0 win against Buxton, while relegation rivals Blyth Spartans were thumped 5-1 at home to Brackley, leaving Farsley three points clear of relegation and safe again.

Defenders Tom Allan and Isaac Assenso notched their first goals of the season to give The Celts the win their commanding performance deserved.

With a little help from my friends: Zan Luk Leban and defenders scramble the ball away. Photo: Ivor Hughes

The past two months have seen The Celts surrender their comfortable mid-table position to nose-dive into the drop zone following a worrying run of one win in 12, scoring just seven times. ‘Village team’ Farsley are one of the smallest clubs in the league, up against some much bigger fuel-time, hybrid and former league clubs and are arguably punching way above their weight to be in this division.

But today The Celts were cheered on by a bumper crowd thanks – in part – to the decision to allow Leeds United members and season ticket holders, and Bradford City season ticket holders in for free. And the players responded.

Clayton Donaldson takes a long throw. Photo: Ivor Hughes

The home side took an early lead to settle the nerves on 12 minutes. A long throw from Clayton Donaldson was cleared back to the gaffer, who swung it in first time before it fell to Tom Allan – back from a three-match suspension – who volleyed home in emphatic style.

With news filtering through the the Farsley fateful that Blyth were losing, hope began to grown that an unlikely escape could actually be on. But there was still a long way to go.

Donaldson battles for the ball. Photo: Ivor Hughes

Michael Coulson went close before Ryan Watson saw his shot from the edge of the box blocked as Farsley were on top. Coulson was involved again when his first-time half-volley from the edge of the box whistled narrowly over the bar.

Just before half time Buxton caused Farsley hearts to flutter when there was a goalmouth scramble, but other than that the home team were the better side.

Farsley’s Michael Coulson and a Buxton player tussle for the ball. Photo: Ivor Hughes

Half-time saw Blyth losing 4-0 at home to Brackley and The Celts a goal up. Could Farsley fans, who had previously been contemplating a weekend in Whitby and renewing rivalries with Guiseley next season, have to think again?

Just four minutes into the second half Farsley took a giant stride to safety.

Ryan Watson floated a corner in, the returning Rudy Misambo attempted to force it home at it before it fell to Assenso, who forced it over the line from close range. The Celts faithful were in seventh heaven.

Heads up: Farsley skipper Chris Atkinson challenges for the ball. Photo: Ivor Hughes

Farsley were causing the Buxton back line problems. Donaldson hit the post when clean through then failed to hit the target with an effort on the edge of the box. He was then booked for diving when a penalty looked the most obvious decision. Coulson also went close as The Celts looked to wrap up the three points.

The crowd watch the Great Escape. Anyone see Steve McQueen? Photo: Ivor Hughes

Mid-table Buxton had a couple of half chances late on, Brogan firing wide from inside the area when well placed, but they failed to produce a shot on target in the 90 minutes.

As the final whistle blew on another tumultuous season the Farsley faithful spilled onto the pitch to celebrate survival with the players.

The Citadel looks out on to Farsley’s gladiators… Photo: Ivor Hughes

There will be questions to answer at the club over the summer, but not today. Tonight is a time for celebration and relief as the Harry Houdinis of Farsley pull off their latest death defying escape act.

Not bad for a small village nestled between Leeds and Bradford, eh? Roll on August.

‘We are staying up’ – fans congratulate player of the season Zan Luk Leban at full time. Photo: John Baron

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