THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Walsham-le-Willows 4 Brantham Athletic 2: Walsham-le-Willows manager Paul Smith admits he would not stand in Jack Brame’s way should the striker wish to try his hand at a higher level.
Brame took his tally to 17 league goals from 22 appearances this season after bagging a hat-trick in the Willows’ 4-2 success over Brantham Athletic in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division on Saturday.
Having seen last year’s top scorer Ollie Hughes move on to Leiston and then AFC Sudbury in the Ryman League, Smith would not be surprised if his new leading marksman started attracting more attention.
“He’s been tremendous,” said Smith. “He’s worked so hard for us and when you work hard you get your just rewards, just like he did with his hat-trick against Brantham.
“Ollie (Hughes) went at the beginning of the season, we pushed Jack up front and he’s taken that challenge on — he’s done better than I could have imagined.
“I wouldn’t stop anybody from playing higher football — I’d rather it wasn’t this season though.”
Brame — whose previous best league tally was 11 in 2011/12 — put his upturn in goalscoring form down to the work he has put in this season.
“I wasn’t in the side at the start of the season, so I’ve just got my head down and taken my chance when it’s come,” he said.
Walsham, who lie seventh, made two changes to the side that beat Wivenhoe Town 4-0 seven days earlier with Paul Musgrove replacing Ryan Foster and Tom Agricole filling in at left wing-back for Andrew Cusack, who departed the club for Norwich United towards the end of last week.
Brame opened his account inside four minutes when he took Andrew Wood’s lofted pass in his stride and drove the ball past George Mutimer’s left hand at the near right post.
Brame tapped in his second from a yard just two minutes later after Lee Sim’s high ball had been pushed on to the crossbar by Mutimer.
Only a goal-saving block prevented the striker from completing a four-minute hat-trick, while Brantham’s open defence also allowed Wood to shave the left post from the edge of the penalty area.
Athletic attempted to respond as Dan Pryke curled a free-kick over and Matt Travis shot tamely at Duncan McAnally in the 21st minute.
However, just seconds later, Brame completed his 17-minute treble when he coolly steered the ball past Mutimer with the outside of his right boot.
Musgrove, Agricole and Wood went close to adding a fourth before half-time but Travis fired a warning shot that the Willows did not heed after the interval.
Matt Ryland’s right-wing corner in the 49th minute was not dealt with and the ball ricocheted around the six-yard box before ending up in the back of the hosts’ net.
They had another just the other side of the hour-mark. Ryland’s free-kick from the left was flicked on and Jack Sibbons tucked the ball home at the far post.
All of Walsham’s good work in the first half threatened to unravel, but they held relatively firm, with goalkeeper Duncan McAnally only called into action to deny Ray Turner at full stretch.
Shaun Thorrold went agonisingly close to restoring Walsham’s two-goal cushion, but it was left to Sim in the final minute to round Mutimer and send the ball home, despite the best efforts of Travis on the line.
Reflecting on the second half, boss Smith added: “We got the jitters a little bit, but we always looked like we would score on the break.”