THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Thetford Town 0 Haverhill Rovers 1: Thetford Town will not rest on their laurels, despite an unexpected positive twist for the Brecklanders’ relegation battle on Wednesday.
Mark Scott’s charges — who visit FC Clacton on the final day of the season tomorrow (3pm) — missed the chance to guarantee their survival when going down 1-0 to Haverhill Rovers on Saturday, but events at the other end of the table conspired to work in favour of the Norfolk outfit in midweek.
Stanway Rovers’ shock win over title hopefuls Gorleston on Wednesday effectively promoted Brightlingsea Regent and means — with CRC disbanding at the end of the campaign — a maximum of two teams would be expected to be relegated, even if Wroxham drop back into the Thurlow Nunn League from Ryman One North.
However, manager Scott is not ready to rely on a reprieve from the Thurlow Nunn League for the second consecutive season.
“It’s positive news, but I personally want to secure Premier Division status with Thetford Town on our own merit,” said the Mundford Road-based outfit’s chief.
Midfielders Sean O’Donnell and Shane Leech will be absent from the squad, tomorrow while several players are still carrying knocks — including Luke Catchpole and Bruno Tavares — that may limit their participation.
Scott knows victory over fellow strugglers Clacton would eliminate any doubt of their survival, but a draw or a defeat would leave them at the mercy of fourth-bottom Ely City — who host basement boys Woodbridge Town — and third-bottom Diss Town — who are at second-bottom Wivenhoe Town.
“Survival is in our hands and we go to Clacton knowing what we’ve got to do, but whether we can do it is another thing,” said Scott. “Other results may help us, but it’s up to us to do whatever it takes to get the three points.”
Jordan Rocastle was Thetford’s chief creator, but also their main culprit with missed opportunities.
His first chance came when he showed great skill to twist past Stuart Kingham and curl the ball beyond the far right post.
The same player lobbed wide on the volley when Sam Bryant’s cross was cushioned into his path by Tavares before forcing Jamie Greygoose into a save at the near post and seeing his follow-up effort brilliantly headed off the line by Greg Strong.
When he was not creating chances for himself, he was doing it for other players, with Arron Joseph arrowing a volley across goal and wide from the right after Rocastle had chased a lost cause into the right corner.
However, with their one clear chance of the match, Haverhill Rovers struck the hosts with a sucker punch in the 32nd minute.
Dan Cornwell outmuscled the Thetford defence to power his way into the right-hand side of the penalty area and deliver a clipped hanging cross that was planted into the net by the forehead of the onrushing and unchallenged Luke Parkinson.
There was still time for Rocastle to rustle the side netting before the half-time whistle blew, but he really should have buried at least one of the best two chances that fell to him after the interval.
First, the former Diss Town striker was denied one-on-one by Haverhill goalkeeper Jamie Greygoose with the visitors’ recovering defenders piling on the pressure and, secondly, dragged wide from close range after being teed up by Tavares.
In between, Rovers’ Rory Thompson had trodden on the ball when all he needed to do was convert Greg Strong’s low cross, but it was a mistake that would not prove costly.
Sam Bryant almost caught Greygoose out with a cross-cum-shot that was heading for the top corner until the goalkeeper clawed it away and the final shot on goal went the way of Rovers — just their second on target of the match — five minutes from the end when Marc Abbott’s whipped free-kick towards the near post was palmed away by Cruickshank.
Reflecting on the performance of Rocastle, who apologised to his teammates after the match, the Thetford boss added: “How do you put a player down that has worked that hard and chased loose balls to get it and make things happen, create all his own chances basically, but not put it in the back of the net?”
Thetford: Cruickshank, Smith, Fancett (Skipp 75), Birch, Carter, T Bryant (Pipe 75), Joseph, O’Donnell, Tavares, ROCASTLE, S Bryant. Sub not used: Catchpole.