MATCH REPORT: Late heartbreak for Haughley in cup final

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A header three minutes into injury-time was the cruel knockout blow delivered to Haughley United by opponents Waveney at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road tonight (Wednesday, May 11).

After Jason Cook’s side had hit back from Tom Mawford’s early opener to deservedly lead 2-1 at the break, through goals from Ryan Wragg and Stephen Vincent, a 67th minute penalty, converted by skipper Ryan Bloomfield, got Waveney back in business before the late dramatic winner from skipper Mawford.

In a pulsating encounter, which saw 12 minutes of time added on in the second half after stoppages for a head injury and numerous breaks to treat cramp for the eventual losers, Haughley goalscorer Wragg lost his head after a challenge by the dugout and his reaction saw him sent off to cap what turned into a miserable denouement for the Mid Suffolk village side.

Jason Cook’s Haughley had Arron Mayhew back in goal after a thigh injury had seen him substituted during the first half of the semi-final win over Cornard united, but influential midfielder Dom Arnold missed out after also having to leave the field in that game at Haverhill’s New Croft.

Haughley went into the match looking to prevent their opponents, Anglian Combination Division One champions Waveney, completing an historic double, as well as avoiding a second cup final defeat inside a week, having lost to Achilles in the Bob Coleman Cup showpiece.

They came out of the blocks strong and had a penalty appeal inside the first minute when Ryan Wragg was played into the area and Andrew Hammersley flew in with a sliding tackle.

It looked the right call from the referee though.

From Iuan Buxton’s resultant corner, Waveney’s goalkeeper put out a fist that saw the ball go skywards before coming back off the crossbar.

Waveney managed to break out of the early onslaught unscathed and soon had their own penalty claim turned down after Bradley Hough tangled with Ryan Beeston, though there did not look enough in it and the referee duly waved it away.

The game was only 12 minutes old when Waveney went ahead. Tom Mawford was able to roll in the rebound after Mayhew had come off his line to save at the feet of Hough.

But it did not take Haughley long to get back on level terms as four mintues later a lovely flowing move involving Nathan Smith and Stephen Vincent saw Cook’s side cut through the Waveney defence like a knife through butter with Wragg coolly converting.

Arron Robinson skied a good chance to put Haughley ahead, while Nathan Smith’s effort, when well placed, lacked the power to trouble James Bergin.

Meanwhile, Waveney’s towering centre-half Andrew Hammersley continued to snuff out danger at the vital moment.

But he soon became powerless to prevent the goal that Haughley’s persistent attacking endeavours had threatened when, in the 34th minute Smith hit the byline as Daniel Grigg miss-timed a sliding tackle and squared for Vincent to guide in, leaving Hammersley screaming at his fellow centre-half.

Haughley came close to exntending their lead before the break, with Grigg having to clear Wragg’s centre over his own bar after his goalkeper got in no-man’s land, while up the other end a corner-cum-shot almost caught out Mayhew, with the keeper releived to see it come down at his far post on the roof of the net.

The Mid Suffolk side again started the stronger as play recommenced with only a combination of goalkeeper and post keeping out Arron Robinson’s volley from a pinpoint back-stick delivery from Ryan Beeston.

But Waveney continued to look ever more dangerous on the break and the Haughley backline began to show signs of weakness as they twice just about scrambled clear of their box, while goalkeeper Mayhew had to block at his near post after Ben George’s chest back put his side in trouble.

Bradley Hough curled over the bar as the Waveney pressure grew, and then came a decisive moment in the match as George’s sliding attempt to disposses the run of Hough saw him take out the striker and give away a penalty.

Bloomfield confidently fired the 67th minute spot-kick into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Mayhew the wrong way, and all the momentum was in Waveney’s favour.

There was little seen of Haughley’s earlier penetrating play as tired legs took hold, with the trainer being called on at regular intervals to deal with cramp concerned players in black-and-white.

It looked like Cook’s side were going to have to have to take their chances with another half-an-hour, though substitutes had breathed a bit of life back into them, until the painful conclusion played out.

A right-hand corner delivered in by Sam Shepherd was met perfectly by the run of Mawford to flash a header beyond Mayhew and spark wild scenes among the coastal side’s players, bench and in the stands.

It was a bitter pill for Haughley to swallow, but with a head injury which eventually forced Mark Theobald off, as well as the series of cramp stoppages, there was still time to change the outcome.

But the nearest either side came to another goal fell to Waveney substitute Ritchie High, who, passed up a good chance in the area, seeing his shot defelcted wide in the sixth minute of additional time.

Not was not until 10 minutes had been added that Wragg lost his cool though and got shown a second yellow card, with the whistle sounding a few minutes later.

Waveney kicked off their second trophy celebration of the season, while for Haughley’s inconsolable players and staff it was time to begin reflecting on a second cup final defeat in a painful week.

HAUGHLEY: Mayhew, Nickless, Beeston, West, George, Buxton, Robinson, Theobald, Wragg, Smith, Vincent. Subs: Allum, Bull, Duka, Codrington, Millard.

Free Press Man of The Match: Tom West.

* For player reaction, see Friday’s Bury Free Press.