Clipstone FC’s delighted management team hailed the new-look side’s team spirit after a remarkable late fightback to win at high-flying Handsworth Parramore.
Two late goals overturned a 2-1 deficit as Clipstone stretched their unbeaten run to four matches with a third successive win.
Manager Ian Cotton, who helped to rebuild the side earlier this year as the club overcame difficulties, said: “We were going to lose 2-1 and still be happy with our performance.
“So to win 3-2 is testament to the players, of where they are at mentally now to where they were five games ago.
“The team spirit is what has got them through it. We are on a good run and it keeps going.”
Clipstone took a second-minute lead as Gareth Curtis netted before Aaron Moxan levelled midway through the first half for the fourth-placed home side.
Jon Froggatt looked to have earned Parramore all three points with a 74th-minute header.
But two minutes from time Curtis equalised for the visitors, pouncing from close range after a good free kick was played into the area.
And in the last minute man-of-the-match Keenan Leeds emphatically converted a penalty to snatch the unexpected win for Clipstone.
Cotton added: “With ten minutes to go we looked like losing. We were shattered.
“We had more than a couple of players who were treading water and struggling to get to the end of the game.
“Then we get a goal, everybody gets a massive shoot of energy and we finished the game strongly.
“It was a penalty at the end. It’s a soft one, but it was a penalty. To win the game 3-2 is a mental feeling.”
Assistant manager Michael Wain added: “The character and fortitude the lads have shown with ten minutes to go was phenomenal.
“They dug deep and the team spirit got them through.
“The hard work and the graft the lads have put in, particularly on the back of having two or three big players missing and three or four players struggling with injury at half-time, is phenomenal.
“The lads deserve more credit than we could probably give them.”
Coach Ian Birtley also praised the players’ fitness.
“We are more than competing with the better teams in this league,” he said.
“We had asked the players over the last few weeks can we be better without the ball. The last few games have showed that we can.”
The win took Clipstone up to 15th place in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division with 48 points, after a run of ten points out 12.
A minute’s silence was held before kick-off for long-time fan and club helper Terry Hutchinson, who died earlier in the week. The club said it was deeply saddened by the news.