Proud St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke has saluted the ‘unbelievable’ season-long effort from his promotion heroes.

Marheineke led Saints to a dramatic 2-1 success against AFC Rushden & Diamonds today in the Southern League Division One (Central) play-off final.

Ben Seymour-Shove's extra-time winner provided the perfect finish to a fantastic campaign as St Ives climbed up to Step 3 of the non-league ladder for the first time in their history.

Marheineke said: "It has been an unbelievable effort from a great group of players throughout the season.

"We broke it down into small chunks of games and gave the boys small targets to hit to ensure we made it into the play-offs.

"They rose to every challenge to make that happen and then came up with two more huge efforts to get promoted.

"Man for man we might not be as good as AFC Rushden & Diamonds - or plenty of other teams in this division for that matter.

"But individual players don't win promotion. Good teams do that and there are few better than us collectively.

"That is why we are going to be playing Step 3 football next season."

Saints look set to suffer play-off pain when falling behind to a header from Diamonds substitute Elliott Sandy with nine minutes to go in normal time.

But Danny Watson provided a dramatic leveller to send the tie into extra-time where local lad Seymour-Shove proved to be the hero.

Marheineke added: "I never think my team is beaten until the final whistle is blown.

"We didn't deserve to be behind and we had to gamble by throwing on a couple of substitutes and changing things.

"We got ourselves level thanks to a really classy strike from Danny to take into extra-time and those changes could easily have backfired on us then.

"We had lads virtually out on their feet, but Ben came up with a brilliant goal to get us ahead.

"There have been times where his performances have dipped during the season, but he has hit form at the right time and that strike was worthy of winning any football match.

"I'm absolutely delighted for him. The fact he is a local boy just makes it even more special.

"I'm just delighted for all the lads, all the people in my fantastic back-room staff, all the board members, all the fans who have backed us so brilliantly, and the town as a whole."

St Ives will now join St Neots Town as the highest-ranked football clubs in Huntingdonshire. The two teams will meet next season in the Southern League Premier Division.