Badshot Lea have won promotion from the Combined Counties Premier Division South.
The Baggies finished their league campaign with a 3-1 win at home to Fleet Town on Saturday afternoon but had to settle for a second-place finish as Raynes Park Vale sealed the league title and the one guaranteed promotion spot with a 2-0 win at Tadley Calleva.
Badshot Lea won their final four league games to pick up an impressive 94 points from their 38 matches, and the final-game win against Fleet proved crucial as the Baggies received news from the FA on Wednesday that they had been promoted to Step 4 as one of the best second-placed teams.
It means the Baggies will play at Step 4 for the first time in their 116-year history next season.
Co-manager Gavin Smith praised his side’s consistency over the campaign.
“We challenged the boys to keep getting three points because we didn’t want Raynes Park to win the league because we dropped points,” he said. “Fair play to Raynes Park – they’ve been strong.
“We said to the lads the points total is unbelievable. We’ve beaten everything we wanted to this year. We’ve scored more goals and got more wins than last year, and we haven’t lost as many games.
“The league was stronger last year because you had Walton & Hersham and Beckenham in it, so we expected to be right up there in the top three.
“That’s where we wanted to be – that was our aim. We’ve just fallen short of the title, but we’ve won 30 out of 38 games. We’ve done really well.”
The Baggies got off to the dream start against Fleet on Saturday, taking the lead after 35 seconds through Dean Rule.
Substitute Tane Caubo made it 3-1 after a neat through ball by Kane Fitzgerald.
“You can’t ask for a better start,” said Smith. “We moaned at them before the game because we think we’ve started games poorly.
“To score that quickly was good. I felt we should have scored again, and probably could have been three up, and then you invite that equaliser which can change the game.
“The second goal is crucial. Any team will have an opportunity to score, so you have to take your chances. We weren’t ruthless enough.
“We knew we had to win, though. I think the equaliser gave us a kick up the backside.
“Our second goal was a good finish by Danilo, and to top it off we put Tane on and he scores in about two minutes.
“We felt lately we haven’t been playing football as much as we like and that’s why we’ve not been playing that well, so it was good to see them being brave on the ball.
“We made a couple of mistakes, but that’s how we want to be – don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Take risks.”
The Baggies won 2-0 at Colliers Wood United in the league last Wednesday night (April 19) thanks to goals from Lewis Pegg and Tane Caubo.