DIVISION ONE NORTH
Mildenhall Town 2
Soham Town Rangers 1
During the 2015/16 and 2016/17 campaigns, Joe Asensi made 95 appearances for Mildenhall Town in all competitions, primarily as a left-back.
But, as part of his ploy to get his side playing a more attractive brand of football in Division One North this season, manager Dean Greygoose has on occasions opted to use Asensi in a deep-lying midfield role.
And it was a tactic that worked a treat against neighbouring Soham Town Rangers on Tuesday night, with Asensi scoring twice in the second half against his former club as Mildenhall came from behind to claim all three points.
On his new role within the side, Asensi said: “We were very good for much of the game. It has helped us a lot going to three in the middle of midfield — that allows us to get on top of teams.
“It gives us the chance to switch the ball and attack from out wide.
“I have played left-back for most of my time here, but I used to play in midfield when I was younger.
“I feel comfortable in there. I like to get on the ball and help get the team playing.”
Asensi’s match-winning exploits came after Soham, who ended the fixture with 10 men following Lewis Endacott’s dismissal, had taken a fortunate 1-0 lead into the break.
The visiting Greens have been lively this term — particularly from out wide — but they struggled to get the likes of Matt Allan and Joe Carden into the contest on a regular basis.
In contrast, the hosts posed a threat throughout and unlike on Saturday when they failed to make the most of their domination in a 2-1 defeat to Haringey Borough, Greygoose’s men got the job done.
It wrapped up a third league win from six outings for Mildenhall and Asensi believes the manner of victory will do wonders for confidence levels.
“We have lost quite a few players and some new ones have come in, so it is going to take time to get used to how each other play,” he said.
“We are still trying to find ourselves as a team, but we showed tonight what we can be capable of.
“We backed each other up, even when we went 1-0 down. It showed some real character and that is what we need at this level.
“It was the reverse of Saturday when we went 1-0 up, but then lost 2-1.
“Turning it around in this manner will give us big confidence going forward.”
The hosts came out of the traps with purpose and after Craig Calver flashed a shot across the face of the Soham goal, Jacob Brown should have broken the deadlock in the 13th minute.
Josh Pope — making his first appearance against Mildenhall since his summer departure — could only parry Calver’s cross back into the danger zone, but from 10 yards out Brown blazed over.
The same player headed Shaun Avis’ centre wide of the target in the 29th minute and he was also unable to work Pope from a tight angle after good work from Asensi and Josh Curry with 43 minutes on the clock.
By this point, home boss Greygoose would have been disappointed by his team’s failure to get their noses in front, but that emotion will almost certainly have made way for bitter frustration when he saw Soham snatch a 44th-minute lead.
Mildenhall goalkeeper Sam Roach was unopposed as he met Carden’s left-wing free-kick, but his punch struck an unknowing Gary Cohen — on for the injured Dan Buddle — and the ball trickled into the net.
Nevertheless, just 35 seconds after the restart, parity was restored.
Calver got the better of Will Gardner down the right flank and his low cross was too powerful for Pope, who could only help the ball into the path of an onrushing Asensi and the Mildenhall man made no mistake.
An off-balance Danny Crow headed Joe Hood’s cross wide soon after, with the former Cambridge United frontman then firing straight at Pope from 12 yards out as Mildenhall attempted to turn the screw.
And their bid for victory was given a significant boost 14 minutes from time when Soham skipper Endacott was given a straight red card for what the referee deemed to be a two-footed challenge on Mildenhall substitute Jake Chambers-Shaw, sparking a brawl between the two teams that saw Jake Kerins cautioned for the home team.
That was only the start of Chambers-Shaw’s involvement because just four minutes later he was upended as he looked to advance beyond three Soham defenders.
Robbie Mason’s men were adamant contact had been made outside the box, but the match official pointed to the spot and up stepped Asensi to fire low into the bottom right-hand corner.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Soham pushed hard for an equaliser thereafter and they were agonisingly close to landing one in stoppage time through Cohen’s flicked header, but Kerins got back on the line to clear.
Mason, whose side beat Romford 1-0 on Saturday with Allan on target, was disappointed with the referee’s performance, but he also conceded his team had been second best.
“It is never a red card and the penalty was also questionable — that is frustrating,” he said.
“But we were not quite at it either. The goal just after half-time has set us back massively.”
Mildenhall: Roach, Kerins, Curry, Butcher, Ruddy, Crow, Hood, Asesni, Avis, J Brown, Calver
Soham: Pope, Bankole, Gardner, Norman, Buddle, Endacott, Carden, Clayton, Mason, Hobbs, Allan
Journal Man of the Match - Joe Asensi: Read danger well, kept possession and scored both goals
n Mildenhall travel to Witham Town on Saturday (3pm) and will also be on the road at Heybridge Swifts in the first round of the Velocity Trophy on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Soham, meanwhile, host Canvey Island on Saturday (3pm) and face Witham in the cup on Tuesday (7.45pm).