Heybridge 3-2 Phoenix, Ryman North, 22.04.17
LEWIS GODBOLD’S second-half double gave Swifts an incredible comeback win to avoid relegation from the Ryman North on an absorbing final afternoon of the 2016-17 season at Scraley Road.
Heybridge were 2-0 down at half-time to goals by Kweku Ansah and Zak Bryon but a stunning comeback saw them pick up the three points needed to stay in the division by the tiniest of margins.
Godbold kick-started the revival with his first four minutes after the break and skipper George Cole equalised ten minutes later.
There was another huge twist with 25 minutes to go when Swifts’ 25-goal top scorer Reece Grant was sent off for a sliding foul on Sports keeper Steve Phillips.
But the hosts showed their mettle when Cole swung in an inviting left-wing cross with ten minutes to go for Godbold to head in a winner which delighted a bumper home crowd.
In the end it meant the north Essex side survived courtesy of a single goal-better goal-difference to Ware, whose 2-0 defeat at VCD was finally confirmed through Swifts secretary Chris Daines’ mobile phone to the anxious Swifts’ squad on the pitch at about 5pm.
Everything else aside, it was an incredibly brave response from a side who started the day as big favourites to go down after conceding a cruel late winner to Maldon last weekend.
Heybridge manager Jody Brown said: “Forget what has gone on the previous 45 games – that was a skipper’s performance yesterday from George Cole.
“And for Lewis Godbold to come up with two goals of such importance… I can’t find the words for it really.
“Because what ever level of football you are at these moments are magical. It’s unbelievable, I’ve been in football for 15 years and I’ve never ever had a moment like that.”
It was the second time in as many seasons that Heybridge have needed a last-day win over Phoenix to survive – and they got it to preserve their 34-year stay in the Isthmian League.
Another heartening aspect was a crowd of 232 at Scraley Road, which came after a turnout of 218 in their previous home game, suggesting the Swifts really can look forward to another promising season in the next Ryman North campaign.
Swifts Starman: Lewis Godbold.