Squires Gate FC chairman Stuart Hopwood hopes to end his 11 seasons at the helm on a high after a late, late equaliser at home to Congleton brought a most welcome point.
opwood announced ahead of the 1-1 draw that he is to step down at the end of the season.
Under his leadership, Gate have become a well-respected and long-established club in the premier division of the North West Counties League.
Their top-flight status for next season is not totally secure – Saturday’s point was only their second in nine games and saw Gate slip to 18th – but they are 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Hopwood leaves the club with a much-improved ground, two new stands and a functional clubhouse. Gate are in a stable financial position, with no outstanding debt. A major highlight of his tenure was a run to the last eight of the FA Vase.
A Gate spokesman said: “The club would like to put on record its eternal gratitude for the efforts Stuart has made for the benefit of the club and wish him well in retirement.
“We would also like to thank his daughter Emma for her help on matchdays. The club are assessing several options but anybody interested in becoming chairman or joining the committee is welcome to contact secretary John Maguire on 07881 767443.”
Congleton held the lead from the eighth minute but were denied victory by substitute Conor Smith in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
Gate started brightly as Max Rothwell almost intercepted a back-pass but the Bears took the lead when Declan Fletcher headed home.
Joe Griffith kept the deficit to one with a fine low save as the visitors broke at pace, but Gate were on top by the end of the half and Dave Rossall’s header from a corner was cleared off the line.
Gate were much-improved in the second half but couldn’t capitalise on a series of free-kicks, Rossall heading one by defensive partner Paul Alexander into the keeper’s hands.
Substitute Jordan Casey added to Gate’s threat but Joe Noblet’s weak shot from Charlie Waters’ pass was easily saved and Tarren Moxon fired wide after bursting clear.
Rossall had a penalty shout waved away but Smith stepped up to save the day two weeks after his 17th birthday, turning Noblet’s shot into the net.
Saturday’s game at Ashton Athletic kicks off at 11.30am.
Gate: Griffith, Richards, Alexander, Hall, Rossall, Moorhead, Waters, Moxon, Noblet, Rothwell. Subs: Smith, Casey, Higham, Gregory.