Willows hope cup magic can kickstart campaign

FA CUP

EXTRA PRELIMINARY ROUND

Walsham-le-Willows 3

Thetford Town 1

by Derek Bish

at Summer Road

PAUL Smith hopes Walsham-le-Willows’ progress in the FA Cup can kickstart their season, after they overcame a tricky derby against Thetford Town.

The Willows’ boss had seen his side lose their opening two Ridgeons League Premier Division matches, but a first-half strike by Charlie Robinson and free-kicks from Paul Musgrove and Craig Skipp put them through in the cup.

Thetford, who have started their Ridgeons First Division campaign with two victories from two matches, gave themselves hope when Matt Dixon pulled it back to 2-1, but Smith’s charges held on.

“We said it was very important for the club to get through to the next round of the FA Cup and also to get our season going,” said the Walsham manager. “If we can get another win in the cup, against Ely or Diss in the next round, that would be great and help the club financially.”

Both teams were missing key players — Ollie Hughes, Lee Sim and Tom Fenner for Walsham, while Thetford were short of Dan Morphew, Sean O’Donnell, Dan Jones and Matt Blake.

In a feisty affair, Walsham’s Jack Brame and Thetford’s Sam Bond felt the full force of the opposition in the tackle, but other than Mark Bowden’s reaction save from Walsham new boy James Heathcote, there was little for either goalkeeper to do in the early stages.

Thetford were dangerous with their pace on the wings, but the Willows edged it through the middle and were strong at set pieces, which they used to good effect when taking the lead from Skipp’s left-wing corner in the 39th minute.

The deep cross found Ben Soanes at the back post. The defender’s header across goal was clawed out by goalkeeper Bowden, but Robinson was on hand to finish coolly.

Thetford forced three successive corners of their own before the break, but could not trouble Duncan McAnally from any of them.

McAnally did have to be sharp to make a smart save in the opening minute of the second period, but the Willows doubled their lead through Musgrove’s sublime 55th-minute free-kick that left Bowden rooted to the spot.

That two-goal advantage lasted until just the hour-mark as patient build-up by the visitors ended with Ian Fancett’s low cross being poorly cleared by Soanes and smashed high into the net by Dixon.

Thetford had the upper hand, but the closest they went to an equaliser was when Fancett’s 30-yard free-kick shaved the top of the crossbar.

Skipp secured the result halfway through 10 minutes of stoppage time when he drilled a low free-kick into the bottom left-hand corner.

n Walsham host Brantham Athletic tomorrow (3pm) and visit Mildenhall Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).