Goalkeeper Belcher the hero as Wick beat Seaford to clinch SCFL top-flight promotion

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Keelan Belcher was Wick’s penalty shootout hero for the second time in four days as the Dragons gained promotion to the Southern Combination Premier Division with a play-off final win at Seaford.

The goalkeeper dived low to his right to save a spot-kick from Josh Wright and spark wild celebrations in front of a whopping crowd of 931 fans at The Crouch.

Belcher made two crucial penalty saves in the play-off semi-final at home to Worthing United the previous Tuesday and his teammates were confident he would repeat his heroics once again.

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The Wick FC celebrations begin | Picture: Paul TrunfullThe Wick FC celebrations begin | Picture: Paul Trunfull
The Wick FC celebrations begin | Picture: Paul Trunfull

‘I thought I had saved an earlier penalty but it hit my elbow and went in off the post,’ the keeper said. ‘To then make the save which gained us promotion was such a special moment. It was amazing to celebrate on the pitch with the lads, it was something I will always remember.’

Dragons boss Baldwin praised his extraordinary shotstopper when he said: ‘Keelan’s one of the best goalkeepers in Sussex and has a lovely habit of saving penalties. We all knew he would do us proud once again.'

Victory was a sweet moment for the Dragons, who partied long into the night back at their Crabtree Park home – they were beaten by Epsom & Ewell in last season's Division One play-off final at Letterhead’s Fetcham Grove ground.

This time, away to second-placed finishers Seaford, they took a fourth minute lead when Dave Crouch burst through to turn a delightful pass from Harry Williams into the net for his 26th goal of the season.

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Wick battle to victory at Seaford | Picture: Paul TrunfullWick battle to victory at Seaford | Picture: Paul Trunfull
Wick battle to victory at Seaford | Picture: Paul Trunfull

But Seaford, who did the double over Wick during the regular season, showed why they finished second in the table by responding with three goals before half-time with two from Callum Connor and another from leading scorer Tyler Capron.

The hosts were well in control and just 45 minutes from going up but the Dragons had other ideas.

Locked in the dressing room where a picture of 'Mr Wick' Keith Croft, the club stalwart who died in March, was placed in a prime position, Baldwin rallied his troops.

He instilled the belief in his team that they could still gain promotion and they responded magnificently.

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Leading scorer Josh Irish headed in his 34th goal of the season to reduce the arrears seven minutes after the restart and Aaron Tester equalised from close range on the hour.

‘I don’t score many but when I do they tend to be in big games as I got one in last year’s playoff semi-final victory against Godalming,’ said the midfielder dubbed ‘the lanky Iniesta’ by his adoring fans.

‘The last one I got this season was here against Seaford at the beginning of March so I obviously love playing at their place.'

Wick, who will now have their name on the hat for next season’s FA Cup, can’t wait to play in the Premier Division after a seven-year exile and Baldwin added: ‘We have a good reputation for beating clubs from that level in various cup competitions over the last few years and our attractive style of football will be suited to the Southern Combination top flight.’

Wick chairman David Phillips summed it all up when he added: ‘The lads took our motto “No Guts No Glory” to heart and gained a deserved promotion after a tough battle. I couldn’t be prouder.’

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