Jubilant coach Alan Connell saluted his AFC Bournemouth players for their “great achievement” after they were crowned champions of the EFL Youth Alliance.
A 2-2 draw with closest rivals Plymouth Argyle at Canford Park Arena on Saturday saw the Cherries lift the South West divisional title on goal difference.
Daniel Adu-Adjei and Michael Dacosta Gonzalez were on target against the Pilgrims, the Devon outfit having already beaten the Cherries in both league and cup this season.
The visitors opened the scoring through Oscar Massey in the 21st minute and were unfortunate to be trailing at the break after Adu-Adjei and Dacosta Gonzalez had netted to give the Cherries the lead.
William Jenkins-Davies struck with 19 minutes remaining to set up a tense finale and the Cherries were indebted to a stunning save from goalkeeper Ollie Camis in the dying seconds.
Connell told afcb.co.uk: “I am really pleased for the players. As a group, we spoke in pre-season and I asked them what they wanted to achieve this season.
“They said they wanted to remain unbeaten at home and to win the league. Both aims were achieved.
“It’s important young players have targets. While our job is to develop these players for their careers and to improve them individually, they have to want to be part of a group that wants to compete and wants to win.
“They have been a pleasure to work with this season and we’ve still got a few months to go so I’m delighted for all of them. To win any league is always a great achievement and I’m very proud of all the players and all the staff.”
Discussing the game, Connell added: “Conditions were difficult and it was a typical wet and windy game.
“We started slowly and there were some nerves out there, which can happen. But we’ve had big games this season and I didn’t think we would get that start.
“But credit to Plymouth. We know what they are about and they had some good chances before they scored their first goal.
“We scored our equaliser against the run of play. It was a brilliant pass from Michael and a classic Daniel finish.
“We were fortunate to get back to 1-1 but one of the things we always say is about trying to stay in games and we did that.
“We had a foothold at 1-1 and then scored with a nice passing move. Michael did what he does and finished really well with his left foot.
“We were probably a bit fortunate to go in at half-time leading 2-1 but we know we’ve got moments of quality in the team and the way we stuck to our task was really impressive.
“We wanted to get a third goal to kill off the game in the second half. I didn’t want us to sit back because we knew a drew would have been good enough.
“We nearly scored a couple of times but it wasn’t to be and we let a runner go for their second goal which was one of the things we spoke about in the build-up to the game.
“But we defended our box really well after that and put our bodies on the line. The conditions became treacherous and we got over the line with determination and character.
“I’ve said it before, those are the qualities our club has been built on through some difficult times we’ve had over the years.
“This group have done themselves and this club proud and I’m delighted for the players because they have managed to achieve something as a group together.”
Connell's team were presented with the trophy by EFL regional managers Bob Bloomer and Ken Oram.