THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Haverhill Rovers 1 Mildenhall Town 2
The Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title has never been clinched by early November, but come the end of the season Mildenhall may look back on Saturday’s trip to Haverhill as a defining fixture.
Dean Greygoose’s men have snatched late victories at Hadleigh United and Godmanchester Rovers in recent weeks, but Dan Brown’s winner at The New Croft — which came in the sixth minute of stoppage time — was the most dramatic of them all.
It maintained Hall’s eight-point lead at the top of the table from second-placed Stanway Rovers, with a game in hand to also throw into the bargain.
And yet it seemed for a long while that a disciplined Haverhill side would claim all three points thanks to Rory Jebb’s powerful first-half strike.
But Mildenhall’s never-say-die attitude eventually paid dividends in the 76th minute when Luke Parkinson lashed home against his former club, before substitute Dan Brown was Johnny on the spot to win it at the death.
The visitors, with the wind in their favour, made most of the early running as Chris Bacon saw his low shot deflected behind for a corner, from which Rob Ruddy was off target.
Haverhill attacks were few and far between over the course of the game, though their first of note saw the deadlock broken in the 12th minute.
Mason Newman — recently signed from Ely City — was afforded too much space on the right flank and the winger proceeded to weave his way into opposition territory, where he picked out Jebb on the edge of the box.
The physical forward, who was previously part of Mildenhall’s youth ranks, had away skipper Luke Butcher for company, but such was the force in his shot that it left his marker and goalkeeper Josh Pope little chance.
Mildenhall dominated possession thereafter, yet the remainder of the half largely saw them taking pot shots from distance, with Matt Green and Gareth Simpson both clearing the goal.
The one-way traffic was ramped up a notch after the restart, with the 58th-minute introduction of Dan Brown in place of Lee Clift providing Mildenhall with more pace in attack.
Despite the pressure, Charlie Turner in the Haverhill goal found himself well protected as Simpson, Green, Butcher, Parkinson and Jacob Brown all had attempts blocked.
But just when the home faithful were thinking it was their day, the resistance was shattered. A Stephen Spriggs corner was never properly cleared and through a crowded penalty area Parkinson squeezed the ball inside Turner’s near post for his fifth goal in three outings.
Within 60 seconds Dan Brown was sent scampering clear and he unleashed a rasping strike that seemed destined for the roof of the net, only for Turner to spectacularly divert the ball on to the crossbar.
Spriggs volleyed Parkinson’s cross at the back post over and after Bacon was inches away from turning in Dan Brown’s drilled cross, a draw looked inevitable.
However, a high ball deep into time added on from Mildenhall right-back David Cooper tempted Turner off his line, only for the keeper to be beaten by the rising Butcher. The ball broke free 10 yards from goal, with Dan Brown reacting quickest to dispatch into an empty net.
The final whistle was sounded a matter of seconds after Haverhill restarted play, sealing a 15th win in 16 league matches for Greygoose — once manager of Haverhill — and his charges.
Haverhill: Turner, Geoghegan, Halls, Milne, Holmes, Latham (Lewis 37), Hill (Stevenson 66), Haines, Jebb, Bradley, Newman (Longley 86)
Mildenhall: Pope, Cooper, Asensi, Butcher, Ruddy, Simpson (Spriggs 68), J Brown, Green, Parkinson, Clift (D Brown 58), Bacon
Man of the Match: Jacob Brown (Mildenhall)
* For match reaction see this week’s print editions of the Haverhill Echo and Newmarket Journal.