Danny Simmonds hailed Eastbourne Town's team spirit as a key factor in their first County League title triumph since 1977.

Town were crowned champions after showing patience and nerve to see off a tricky Oakwood side 6-1 yesterday.

The title race had gone down to the last game of the season with long-term leaders Whitehawk just a point behind their rivals and waiting to pounce should there be any slip-up at Tinsley Lane.

There was a chance of that as a youthful Oakwood side led early on and also had a decent opportunity to make it 2-2 with half an hour remaining.

But Town finished with a flurry of goals to lift the trophy and leave Whitehawk, who finished with a 7-0 drubbing of Sidley, empty-handed.

Promotion to Ryman division one south is also now in the bag and former Albion player Simmonds, one of the most experienced players in Town's side, believes the togetherness they showed in the closing weeks of the season should hold them in good stead at a higher level.

The midfielder, 32, said: "It has been a very good season.

"We didn't have the best of starts but from Christmas onwards we have only lost twice.

"The team spirit is brilliant. You saw that out there against Oakwood. That helped us through at the end when we won eight out of our last nine games.

"I still get a buzz at this level, I really do. For some of these players that was the biggest game they have played in.

"I enjoy being around them and trying to help out."

It was another ex-Albion player, John Piercy, who got Eastbourne rolling but only after Oakwood threatened to spoil the party by taking the lead in the tenth minute.

Reactions The visitors' defence misjudged a spinning ball which they thought was going out for a corner and Dave Neathey lobbed keeper Greg Nessling from a tight angle.

Piercy, who had threatened twice in the first six minutes, drew Town level on 13 minutes, showing quick reactions to score from close range after Gary Brockwell whipped over a well-worked short corner.

Piercy, playing up front in the absence of top scorer Liam Baitup, then made it 2-1 on 20 minutes with a composed finish from Andy Ducille's flick on before hobbling off injured.

Oakwood began the second half well and Neathey almost scored a second on the hour mark but losing goalkeeper Michael Wood to injury at half-time meant midfielder Phil Marsh had to go in goal and he was swamped in the last half-hour.

Substitute Steve Dallaway calmed nerves with a third goal from a Simmonds corner on 64 minutes and when Ducille made it 4-1 eight minutes later County League officials started laying out the medals on the presentation table.

Dallaway and Ducille each scored again in the closing stages while Greg Manton's embarrassing miss in stoppage time failed to wipe the smiles off faces. In fact, it added to them.

Manager Colwell said: "It feels fantastic to win. I have never been so tense before a game.

"I tried to not let that convey to the players but it did a bit because we were a little tense at the beginning but once we were into a rhythm we looked the quality side we have been for most of the year.

"I knew in the back of my mind we had a chance with the players we brought to the club last summer.

"It has been a fantastic title race and probably next week I will give Chappers (Whitehawk boss Ian Chapman) a ring and have a chat about it.

"We have to be realistic and say we will need two or three additions next year but the squad who have won the league will get every opportunity to prove their worth in Ryman division one."

Oakwood: M.Wood (sub Seale 46), Wells (sub Holmes 64), J.Lovegrove, Ransom, Comper, Butcher, Tidey (sub Perkis 76), Marsh, D.Lovegrove, Neathey, L.Wood. Sub not used: Buchan.

Eastbourne Town: Nessling, Davidson, Dicker, Denton, Head, Featherstone, Simmonds, Manton, Piercy (sub Dallaway 26 (sub Holman 87)), Ducille (sub Millroy 82), Brockwell. Subs not used: Brownall, Harris.

Referee: Fred Davis (Burgess Hill).

Attendance: 137.

Man-of-the-match: Danny Simmonds (Eastbourne Town).

Yesterday's results - County League division one: Chichester 1 (Moore 86), Arundel 2 (Matt Huckett 7, 56); Eastbourne United 1 (Crabb 32), Three Bridges 5 (Sebuliba 8, 21, 49, Death 62, Edwards 86); Hailsham Town 0, Ringmer 0; Oakwood 1 (Neathey 10), Eastbourne Town 6 (Piercy 13, 20, Dallaway 65, 81, Ducille 71, 83); Whitehawk 7 (Buss 25, Gunn 36, Bunch 44, Carr 48, Garrod 60, Phillips 50, 70), Sidley 0.

Division three: Pease Pottage 1 (Dunk 30), Rustington 2 (Robinshaw 40, Adams 87); Uckfield Town 0, Bexhill United 4 (Bage 15, 35, Cuddington 25, Winfred 50).