BARNSTAPLE Town captain Aaron Harper-Penman believes the “coming together of local players” has been the catalyst for their success.
Town gained promotion from the Toolstation Western League First Division on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Warminster Town.
Harper-Penman, who joined the club from Bideford in 2013, said their return to the Premier Division after two seasons was based on a strong team ethic.
“The coming together of local players has left us with a really close-knit squad and a brilliant team spirit.
“Being friends off the pitch means we work harder for one another on the pitch and ultimately that brings in extra points.
“We still want to go up as champions but it’s been a great season and the managers, Barry Yeo and Karl Baggaley, have turned the club into a big family.”
Having conceded just 26 goals in 39 games – and only three in the last 15 – a key part of Barnstaple’s triumph has been the centre-back partnership between Harper-Penman and James Mayne, who joined from Ilfracombe Town last summer.
“I played against Mayney all the way through youth football and men’s football when he played for Torrington and Ilfracombe,” said Harper-Penman. “But to play alongside him has been a pleasure.
“With Josh Phillips coming in as well, we always have a strong combination of centre-backs.”
With Welton Rovers being held to a 1-1 draw by Almondsbury UWE on Tuesday, Barnstaple, who have a vastly superior goal difference, effectively need one point from their remaining three games to be crowned champions.
Manager Yeo said the success was about more than just him and the players.
“It’s (club photographer) Jay Smith, the groundsman, fans, committee and everyone else involved in the club who have helped us push on. I’m a Barnstaple boy and I’m proud of everyone at the club right now.”