THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Mildenhall Town 2
Managers involved in any title race will often do their best to play down the significance of matches against those in and around them.
The old ‘just another game’ line is often trotted down, presumably to take the pressure of the players.
But by Dean Greygoose’s own admission, his Mildenhall side had to claim all three points from Tuesday’s encounter with Gorleston.
Mildenhall went into the clash at Recreation Way eight points clear of their fourth-placed visitors, but crucially the men from the Norfolk coast were able to boast three games in hand.
With Felixstowe & Walton United in second also breathing down Mildenhall’s neck, losing would have seriously dented their title aspirations.
To Greygoose’s relief, he watched on as late goals from Stephen Spriggs and substitute Dan Brown put daylight between his men and Gorleston, while Felixstowe are now six points adrift having played two less games.
“We had to win, there is no doubt about that,” said the Mildenhall boss.
“I never mentioned it to the players or anyone else, but it was crucial because a defeat would have made things difficult.
“We had a tough January with injuries and a loss of form, while in February we did not get the points we deserved.
“But we kept believing and doing the right things. Tonight is a reward for that.”
The game itself will not live too long in the memory, with both goalkeepers likely feeling that they were relatively under-worked.
The only meaningful attempt of the first half came courtesy of Mildenhall midfielder George Tolliday in the fourth minute.
His bouncing effort from distanced threatened to cause Tavrean Molloy problems, but the Gorleston shot stopper adjusted his body well to make the save.
At the start of the second half, the league’s leading goalscorer Connor Ingram whistled a shot wide of Josh Pope’s upright, but by and large, the away side were finding it hard to get beyond the returning Mat Mitchel-King and the Mildenhall defence.
As the game wore on, and with their need for the three points greater than Gorleston’s, Mildenhall started to exert more pressure.
They were duly rewarded 11 minutes from time when Dan Brown utilised his pace to reach the right byline, from where he drilled in a cross that eluded Molloy, leaving Spriggs to tap the ball into an unguarded net.
And with the encounter heading into stoppage time, the points were made safe.
Arran Mackay’s long pass forward was collected by Chris Bacon, who in turn lofted the ball into Dan Brown’s path.
The striker took his time before pulling the trigger, but despite two Gorleston defenders getting back goal-side, they were unable to block his low effort that left Molloy flat-footed.
The final whistle ensured Gorleston would make the long trip back empty handed, but they will soon have the chance to gain revenge, with Mildenhall set to travel to Emerald Park for the reverse fixture on Tuesday, April 4.
Mildenhall: Pope, J Brown, Asensi, Mitchel-King, Mackay, Simpson, Green, Spriggs, Tolliday (Melanson 73), Bacon, Clift (D Brown 52)
Journal Man of the Match: Gareth Simpson
n On Saturday, Fakenham Town will be the visitors to Recreation Way (3pm).
The Ghosts, who sit 14th in the table, are without a victory from their previous three league outings.
However, they are likely to take some confidence into the encounter, having booked their place in the final of the Norfolk Senior Cup at Carrow Road on Wednesday, courtesy of a 5-4 penalty shootout win over lower-league Harleston Town.
Back in August, Mildenhall won the reverse fixture at Clipbush Park by a convincing 5-1 scoreline.