1. After a very interesting season so far, OTT FC finds themselves with a shot of promotion at the first time of asking. It hasn’t been the easiest season so far – trying to get players to play for a club with no history has been tough, but with the Premiership clubs stepping up to provide some players on loan, and raiding the free agents market, the Writers have impressed this season.

There are six games remaining of the season, and OTT FC are one point off the lead, currently in third on 45 points. Hanover and Crewe United lead the way, with there being six points between us and the team in fourth, Fivemiletown.

Remember, winning the league is the only way that you can be promoted, and you have to go into a playoff with the other league winners from across the leagues at this level.

The first game of the article, and the first game in February was against Richhill. They currently sit in tenth place, with OTT FC getting the better of them last time winning 2-0 at the Ronnie Dog Arena.

The starting XI for this match was as follows:

For the opening twenty minutes of the match, OTT FC put pressure on the Richhill defence, with Plamen Kolev getting the breakthrough from the left-hand side of the box, making it 1-0 to the Writers, with his seventh goal of the season. The teams went into the break with the Writers edging out Richhill not only in possession: 53% to 47%, but more importantly on the scoreboard.

A tussle in the box after Oisin Smyth took a free-kick led to a penalty for The Writers and Rory Patterson stepped up to make it 2-0, his 15th goal in 14 matches for the club. Kyle Mackie made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute, with a header from a Smyth free-kick from an almost identical position that led to the second goal. The game ended 3-0 to the Writers but moves them up to second after Hanover lost 3-1 to Banbridge Rangers.

With five games remaining of the season, along with a potential title-decider against Hanover in the penultimate game of the campaign, Plamen Kolev picked up an injury in training, ruling him out for the rest of the season.

The second match of February was against Banbridge Rangers, who beat title-challengers Hanover last time out. I made only one change to the starting XI, the injured Kolev being replaced by Darragh Byrne. There were no clear-cut chances in the opening 45 minutes, with the teams heading in at the break with the score at 0-0. Hanover are playing against Crewe United, with the score at 2-2.

In the 73rd minute, with the score at Hanover now 3-3, Kyle Mackie gave OTT FC the lead to put the Writers top of the table. With six minutes left of the game, the word of a Crewe United goal to put them 4-3 up against Hanover was being passed around to the in 80 home fans in attendance.

In the 91st minute, Hanover pulled one back, putting OTT FC back on top of the table by a point. With the game at the Ronnie Dog Arena coming to a close, with the Writers winning 1-0, even better news came in that Hanover has scored at 92nd-minute winner to give OTT FC a two-point advantage at the top.

After losing Kolev through injury, he has decided to leave the club to move to Bansko in the Bulgarian Third Division. This is very disappointing as he was a key player for us, with the left wing position being one we need to strengthen once the transfer window opens.

There was a three-week gap between the Banbridge Rangers fixture and our next opponent in Bourneview Mill. I organised two friendly matches during this time, and they went as follows:

vs Sion Swifts (H) 5-0 (Goals: Smyth 18’, 69’, 74’ Patterson 62’, 65’)

vs Antrim Rovers (H) 4-3 (Goals: Mackie 24’ Patterson 29’ Smyth 78’ Brown 93’ (ANT: Carson 60’ Hill 73’ Whiteside 89’)

The next match was against Bourneview Mill and the starting XI was unchanged. Darragh Byrne opened the scoring in the 38th minute, scoring his first goal for the side.

At half time it was 1-0 to the Writers and Hanover were level at 0-0 with Richhill, and Crewe United were 1-0 up against Ballymacash Rangers.

The only goal of the second half came in the 91st minute through Oisin Smyth. The game ended 2-0, with Hanover dropping two points against Richhill with a 1-1 draw, while Crewe United edged out Ballymacash Rangers with a 2-1.

This is what the league table looks like with three matches remaining:

As there was another gap between matches, I organised a friendly against Cookstown Youth. The final score was 4–1 with goals coming from Mackie in the 53rd minute, Patterson in the 54th and 61st minute and Brown in the 93rd. Cookstown’s goal was scored by Chris Wallace in the 90th minute.

The next match was against Oxford Sunnyside and I made one change to the starting XI with Brown coming into the side to replace Byrne, who drops to the bench.

After three minutes it was Brown who opened the scoring with a stunning volley from inside the box and on the half-hour mark, Adam Brown scored a rocket from outside the box to make it 2-0.

This was the score as the sides went in for the break. In the other noteworthy matches, Hanover are currently winning 3-2 against Bourneview Mill, while Crewe United are currently level at 1-1 against Tandragee Rovers.

Four minutes after the break, Brown got his hat trick squeezing the ball past the Oxford keeper at his near post, to make it 3-0. Niall Foster got one back for Oxford Sunnyside in the 69th minute, but this was only a consolation goal as the Writers ran out 3-1 winners.

In a goal-fest in the Hanover game, they managed to win 5-4 away to Banbridge Rovers. Crewe United ran out 4-2 winners against Tandragee Rovers.

In preparation for next season, I have signed Nigel Prentice on a free transfer from Harland & Wolff Welders. Although he is eligible to play from now, I will not be using him until next season.

With yet another gap between fixtures, I arranged a friendly against Mourne Rovers. The match ended 4-0 to OTT FC, with goals from Smyth in the eighth minute, Patterson in the 18th minute, a Gary McGuigan own goal in the 88th minute and Darragh Byrne goal in 92nd minute.

It was time for one of the biggest games of the season – OTT FC vs Hanover. A win here for the Writers would knock Hanover out of title contention.

Michael McKenna headed the Writers into the lead in the 17th minute but Matthew Browne equalised for Hanover in the 45th minute, bringing Crewe United level on goal difference.

James Gould then put Hanover into the lead with a free-kick in the 71st minute, putting Crewe United to the top of the table.

In the 73rd minute, Rory Patterson scored his 15th goal for the club, to put OTT FC back to the top of the table. The game ended 2-2, with The Writers remaining top of the table.

Crewe United won 5-2, meaning there are now only two goals separating the top two in the table.

Rory Patterson announced after the match that he had only had a few matches or potentially just one remaining at this level of football and would leave OTT FC to play for a team at a lower division. Dromara Village have signed Jamie Peoples, who leaves after making nine appearances, scoring one goal and getting one assist.

The final match of the regular league season, potentially the entire season is here, Over The Turnstile FC vs Fivemiletown. If we match the result of Crewe United and don’t let them overturn the two-goal led that we have, we will be champions.

Rory Patterson scored the opener in the 24th minute, giving the Writers the title as things stand, as Crewe United were 1-0 up against Moneyslane.

At half time it was 1-0 to the Writers and Crewe were still 1-0 up against Moneyslane.

In the 50th minute, Rory Patterson all but sealed the title putting us 2-0 up, with Crewe United now needing to overturn a three-goal difference deficit.

In added time there was no change in the result in Crewe United’s game, the final whistle sounds…. Over The Turnstile FC are Champions!

The final league table looks like this:

With that victory it means that the season is not yet over, we move into the playoffs where we aim to get promotion to the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League. We will face Donegal Celtic at the Coleraine Showgrounds as the winners of Strabane Athletic vs East Belfast await.

East Belfast edged out Strabane Athletic in extra time to win 2-1, they now will face either OTT FC or Donegal Celtic.

The game started in a very competitive way, with both sides having chances early on. It was the Writers who found themselves in the lead after 26 minutes, thanks to Kyle Mackie. The score at half time was 1-0 to the Writers.

The second half was another competitive half, but Sean Southam scored the equaliser for Donegal Celtic in 84th minute, with the game looking like it’s heading into extra time.

In the 91st minute, Jake Richardson scored a free-kick to put OTT FC into the lead, making 2-1 but in the 95th minute, Robert McVarnock scored the equaliser for Donegal Celtic, putting the game into extra time.

The first half of extra time contained no clear-cut chances with the tie still level at 2-2 at half time of extra time. With five minutes to go in the play-off semi-final, Jake Richardson gave OTT FC the lead with yet another free-kick. Jack Bradley then capitalised on a mistake from the Donegal Celtic goalkeeper, to make it 4-2, putting The Writers into the play-off final against East Belfast.

It is time for the final game of this season, the promotion playoff against East Belfast at the Coleraine Showgrounds. East Belfast topped their league by nine points, losing only two all season.

After 14 minutes, Adam Brown gave OTT FC the lead, heading in a Taylor cross, making the scoreline 1-0. Brown scored his second of the match after 35 minutes, getting onto the end of a Mackie cross. The sides went into the break with the Writers leading East Belfast 2-0. In the second half, OTT FC dominated the ball, controlling the game and edging closer and closer to promotion at the first time of asking. The referee’s whistle brings the match to an end… Over The Turnstile have been promoted.

So that brings to an end a dramatic and very successful season for Over The Turnstile. We had a media expectation to finish as runners-up, but the club’s objective was to just survive. In the next part, we will move forward to the club’s second season, with a possibility of moving to a semi-professional set-up.