Walsham-le-Willows 0 Hadleigh United 0
DUNCAN McAnally was the hero as he earned Walsham-le-Willows a point by saving a penalty with the last touch of his side’s goalless draw against Hadleigh United.
The Willows — who played against 10 men for more than half the match — had chances to win the game themselves against the Brettsiders, but they struggled in the second half and were fortunate in the end to take away a point in the end.
However, Paul Smith’s charges still have plenty of work to do to avoid relegation from the Ridgeons League Premier Division after a win for Wivenhoe Town saw Walsham pulled to within two points of the drop zone.
“It’s harder to beat 10 men than it is 11 sometimes and so it proved out there,” said Walsham manager Smith, whose side host Stanway Rovers tomorrow (3pm). “At the end of the day, we were pleased to get a point because it was a great save by Duncan from the penalty.
“The important thing is we didn’t lose and kept a clean sheet.”
The Willows played some excellent football in the first half with Sam Diaper volleying off target after fine build-up between Will Brown and Ollie Hughes, while Ryan Foster dictated the game from the middle of the park.
Hughes fired tamely at ex-Needham goalkeeper Andrew Plummer — who was helping Hadleigh out with their number one Dan Heath sidelined through injury — before former Walsham man Chris McLaughlin clipped the woodwork with a measured strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Diaper was lucky not to receive a second yellow card just before United captain Kris Rose was dismissed for two bookings of his own, the second for a needless handball on the ground as Brown tried to break down the right for Walsham.
That proved to be the game changer, but in favour of Hadleigh, who switched to a 4-3-2 formation at half-time, flooded the midfield and pushed the Willows back.
After Brown drilled narrowly wide for Walsham, McAnally began to earn his man-of-the-match award at the other end by palming Ollie Canfer’s volley away on the hour-mark.
Danny Allen was a stud’s width away from turning in Luke Wade’s shot across goal for Hadleigh before two superb stops by McAnally saw him deny the visitors’ hit marksman Ben Deacon with a parry and then a brilliant tip over the crossbar.
Wade created himself some space on the break, but smashed the ball well wide of the target.
All Walsham had managed in return were two narrow misses from James Tatham, but in the final minute the striker pulled the ball back for Foster, whose low first-time shot was well kept out by Plummer down to his right.
Hadleigh had the final chances when substitute Calum Smith was denied when one-on-one with McAnally before Trevor Newman’s clash on the floor with Allen in the penalty area in the last minute of stoppage time saw referee Nathan Kennedy award United a spot-kick and Newman a red card.
Bury Town defender Jack Cawley — on dual registration forms with Hadleigh — stepped up to take the kick, but McAnally dived to his right and kept out the penalty to preserve the stalemate.
Shots on target 4 6
Shots off target 4 6
Woodwork 0 1
Corners 2 8
Offsides 5 3
FK conceded 19 17
Walsham: McAnally, Morton, Cusack, Soanes, Newman, Musgrove, Hughes, Foster, Brown, Tatham, Diaper (Lambert 46). Subs not used: Fenner, Taylor, Robinson,
Bookings: Walsham:Foster (persistent infringement), Diaper (unsportsmanlike conduct), Cawley (dissent). Hadleigh: Rose (persistent infringement/handball), Canfer (foul).
Red cards: Walsham: Newman (violent conduct). Hadleigh: Rose (two bookings).
Man of the match: Duncan McAnally.
Referee: Nathan Kennedy.