Willows suffer major blow as Hughes agrees move to Leiston

HUGE LOSS: Striker Ollie Hughes, left, pictured in action against Tower Hamlets earlier in the season, has left Walsham-le-Willows after agreeing a switch to Ryman League Premier Division outfit Leiston

HUGE LOSS: Striker Ollie Hughes, left, pictured in action against Tower Hamlets earlier in the season, has left Walsham-le-Willows after agreeing a switch to Ryman League Premier Division outfit Leiston

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FA Vase

Second Round

Qualifying

Walsham-le-Willows 4 Whitton United 2

Walsham-le-Willows assistant manager John Taylor has conceded Ollie Hughes will be a loss to the club after the striker agreed to join Leiston.

Hughes missed the Willows’ FA Vase second qualifying round victory over Whitton United on Saturday to hold talks with Ryman Premier Division side Leiston and discuss personal terms, before finally confirming the switch on Tuesday evening.

The 26-year-old bagged 23 goals in all competitions for the Summer Road outfit in the previous campaign and spent time on trial at Luton Town during pre-season.

Taylor, who must prepare his side for a tough trip to Brantham Athletic tomorrow (3pm), said: “The bottom line is I probably think Ollie is better than this level and Leiston have got a bit more financial clout than we’ve got.

“Ollie is a quality centre forward. In the last 18 months he has turned himself into a top player, so of course we will miss him.”

Despite Hughes’ absence, goals from Liam Bolton, Nathan Clarke and Jack Brame put Walsham in command.

Strikes from Whitton’s James Heathcote and Tom Bradlaugh set up an exciting conclusion, but a second for Bolton put the tie beyond doubt to book a home clash with Godmanchester Rovers on October 19 in the first round proper.

The tie finally exploded into life early in the second period when Lee Sim’s deflected shot was only cleared to the edge of the box to Bolton, who fired in low and hard to give the Willows a deserved lead.

Whitton thought they had a lifeline just after the hour when Matt Morton felled striker Chris Williams when he appeared to be clean through on goal, but the referee only brandished a yellow, having adjudged Sim as a covering defender.

The game threatened to boil over when Walsham’s Clarke and Whitton’s Williams were booked for poor challenges as the hosts turned their dominance into goals.

Paul Musgrove sent a beautiful delivery to the far post, which was headed beyond Chaplin by Clarke on 66 minutes, with Brame netting the third just three minutes later, calmly slotting home.

The visitors, however, had only lost once in their opening nine games of the season, and began to stage an unlikely comeback, with Heathcote netting from close range and Bradlaugh volleying in Anton Clarke’s cross to give them hope.

But Bolton had other ideas, and won the tie for the hosts, finishing inside the box after good hold-up play from Wood with five minutes to play, although the victory was marred by Morton’s controversial sending off for a second bookable offence for time wasting in stoppage time.