Five-star Mildenhall reach final again

DEADLOCK-BREAKER: Stephen Spriggs is congratulated by team-mates after opening the scoring in the 29th minute
DEADLOCK-BREAKER: Stephen Spriggs is congratulated by team-mates after opening the scoring in the 29th minute
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THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE

CHALLENGE CUP

SEMI-FINAL

Mildenhall Town 5

Haverhill Rovers 0

Over recent weeks, Mildenhall’s bid for the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title has stuttered to the point where the destination of the trophy is no longer in their hands.

Goals — more accurately a lack of — had been one of the leading issues for Dean Greygoose’s side, who had scored just five times in their previous six outings in all competitions prior to Tuesday’s semi-final against Haverhill.

But against Rovers, the floodgates re-opened in style as the visitors were steamrollered by five unanswered goals.

The victory moved Mildenhall to within 90 minutes of retaining a competition they won last May as they bid to become the first team to mount a successful defence since Sudbury Town in 1990.

Rivals Newmarket Town — their opponents on Monday, May 1 at Diss Town FC — will undoubtedly have other ideas, but for now Greygoose is keen to shelve talk of a derby final, opting instead to focus on his side’s title charge.

A near-on 20-point lead at Christmas has been eroded, so much so that Felixstowe & Walton United and Gorleston will jump ahead if they win their games in hand, but Greygoose is hopeful that the Haverhill performance can breathe new life into his team’s charge.

“If we play like that for the remainder of the season, that is all I can ask. The boys were back to their best,” he said.

“We need to take this forward and learn the lessons from a tricky January and February.”

“It is a lesson for some of the boys — we have to work hard and do the right things.

“This has shown us we cannot afford to drop our intensity in the remaining games. That is how we have to play.

“We have come through a patch where we have had some big injuries and a lot of the boys seemed to lose their confidence at the same time.

“But when we play like that, we look like a good side. We have entertained again and scored some great goals.

“It gives everyone confidence again. It has allowed everyone to take a deep breath and relax.”

In truth, there were times when the encounter bore a striking resemblance to an attack versus defence training match.

Mildenhall spent the majority of the night camped in Haverhill territory, with the only surprise being that it took them 29 minutes to break the deadlock.

Cutting in from the right flank, Stephen Spriggs used the wet conditions to his advantage with a shot from 20 yards out that zipped off the turf and nestled inside the far post of Charlie Turner’s goal.

The Mildenhall attacks continued at frequent intervals, although it seemed Haverhill were going to get the chance to regroup at the break with only a one-goal deficit.

However, just 60 seconds before Rovers could get back into the sanctuary of the dressing room, they were hit by a quickfire George Tolliday double.

Firstly the Mildenhall midfielder left Turner no chance when volleying in Joe Asensi’s left-wing cross, before being Johnny-on-the-spot to turn the ball home after Spriggs’ dipping effort had been too hot for the Haverhill goalkeeper to handle.

As is often the case when matches are put out of one side’s reach after 45 minutes, there were long periods in which the second half uneventfully drifted by.

Mildenhall still posed an attacking threat, though, and that rose to the fore once again in the 67th minute when left-back Asensi curled a free-kick around the wall and out of Turner’s grasp.

Four minutes later substitute Alex Stillinger was denied by Turner at the near post, but the fifth goal did eventually arrive with 14 minutes left on the clock.

Lee Clift was the creator, crossing towards the back post where Matt Green rose highest to head home.

With his team cruising, Greygoose took the opportunity to hand 17-year-old winger Marcio Pereira his debut and the teenager almost placed the cherry on top of the cake with a dipping effort from distance, but the ball landed on the roof of the net.

Mildenhall: Pope, Cooper, J Brown, Ruddy, Asensi, Green, Simpson (Hilton 79), Spriggs (Pereira 79), Tolliday, Clift, D Brown (Stillinger 70)

Journal Man of the Match - Stephen Spriggs: Playing out wide, Mildenhall’s number seven settled the nerves by opening the scoring and was a menace throughout

Attendance: 127

n Mildenhall, who claimed a 1-1 draw from their trip to Saffron Walden Town last weekend thanks to Max Melanson’s first goal for the club, travel to Walsham-le-Willows on Saturday (3pm).

Striker Chris Bacon will be available after serving a two-match suspension, while Arran Mackay and Melanson are also back in contention having been cup-tied for the Haverhill fixture.

Captain Luke Butcher is still recovering from a broken jaw, but there is a chance he could return to action in time for Gorleston’s visit to Recreation Way on Tuesday, March 14.