COLNE boss Steve Cunningham was full of praise for his players after they clinched the North West Counties League Premier Division title.

The Reds won 1-0 at 1874 Northwich on Saturday thanks to a late Danny Boyle goal to hold of Runcorn Linnets and ensure promotion to the Evo-Stik League next season.

And Cunningham was delighted to see his side lift the silverware.

He said: "In the last couple of minutes of the game, we just knew it was there, and was for us. Credit to 1874, they played the game in the right spirit, and were very complimentary at the end as well.

“I said from day one we would win the league, we have a great set of players, and we have done our talking on the pitch.

“The league table doesn’t lie, we have finished top and have only lost four from 42 games, and that is tough to do, there haven’t been many teams that have done that. It’s the toughest league in the pyramid, with no play offs.

“The lads have been absolutely tremendous, as has the support from the club and this is a reward for absolutely everybody."

Cunningham also paid tribute to rivals Runcorn, where he was captain during his playing career.

“I feel sorry for Runcorn Linnets, they have finished second three years running and that will be hard to take. I was captain there, I have a lot of friends there, I wish them all the luck next year," said Cunningham, speaking to the official league website.

“Two years ago I took the job on and said I would win the league for them in three years, so to do it in two years, a year earlier than planned is brilliant.

“We have had a lot of doubters and knockers, but we have done it the right way and in the right spirit and we are worthy champions."

Colne started well on Saturday as Northwich keeper Greg Hall made a string of saves, blocking Boyle’s close range shot with his feet and denying Spencer Jordan in similar fashion.

But the Reds were guilty of wasting too many chances in the opening period and might have paid dearly on the half hour when Stuart Wellstead threatened for Northwich but Alex Coleman saved the day with a great last ditch tackle.

The visitors might have taken the lead before half time when Boyle laid the ball back for Chris Anderson but his shot flew harmlessly wide.

The Reds came close again on the hour when Boyle shot narrowly wide from a good opportunity.

A heart-stopping moment came after 75 minutes when Tyler Edwards got free in the Colne area but Tony Aghayere got down well to make a good save.

Two minutes later at the other end, the referee appeared to award a penalty to Colne as Ben Wharton was pulled back in the box but after consulting his linesman he gave the free kick the other way.

With time running out, the game looked set for a scoreless draw but on 82 minutes Boyle broke the deadlock.

Joel Melia made a strong run cutting into the area from the right and laid the ball back for Boyle who fired home a diagonal shot into the far corner.