THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE FIRST DIVISION
Stowmarket Town 7
Dereham Town Reserves 1
The target at the start of the season was promotion, but this latest victory has left Stowmarket Town supporters dreaming of a possible league title in five weeks’ time.
Rick Andrews’ side maintained their five-point lead at the top of the Thurlow Nunn League First Division with this crushing win over second from bottom Dereham Town Reserves at Greens Meadow on Saturday.
And ahead of the rearranged trip to second place Coggeshall Town on Tuesday (7.45pm), the push for the first promotion in Stow’s 134-year history shows no sign of letting up.
“We’re at the business end of the season and all we can do is keep looking to get the three points,” Andrews said.
“Dereham were a young side, so we knew what we were going to get. We took the lead and then it was just a case of concentrating.
“I think the squad now is probably the strongest Stow have ever had and, realistically, we can put any 11 out there out of the 15 or 16 and it’s a strong side.”
The one blemish from this performance by Andrews’ side was that they fell behind to their lowly visitors, before coming back with seven unanswered goals to complete a comfortable win.
Wing-back Ben Licence failed to deal with a long ball from the Dereham defence and visiting captain Lewis Gibson made the most of the mistake, firing past a static Lewis Higgins to put the Norfolk youngsters ahead after just four minutes.
Dereham’s lead would last barely five minutes ,though, as a quick-fire brace from frontman Steve Holder, the second of which was a sublime bicycle kick, put Stow ahead before the quarter hour mark.
Stow ran riot as the first half drew to a close, leading goalscorer George Bugg added to his account for the season with two goals and recent signing Remi Garrett also found the target to put the hosts 5-1 in front at the break.
Midfielder Jack Baker broke Dereham’s resistance in the second half with a neat finish on 70 minutes, before Holder completed his hat-trick in the final minutes as Stow ensured they kept their five-point advantage at the summit heading into next week’s trip to title rivals Coggeshall.
“The aim was promotion, if we win the league it’s the icing on the cake,” Andrews said.
“All we can do is concentrate on ourselves. Realistically, if we beat Coggeshall we’re 100 per cent favourites to win (the league).
“They have to come and beat us. I thought when we played them last time (in the original fixture Coggeshall were winning 2-0 before the match was abandoned early in the second half) we were a bit like rabbits in headlights.
“I think the occasion got to us. This time we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”
This win was a mark of how strong the squad is that Andrews has assembled at Greens Meadow this season.
Despite not having the experience of their captain Danny Cunningham and centre-back Phil Weavers, the creativity of midfield linchpin Tom Bradlaugh, or the explosiveness of striker Remell Davis, Stow still managed to score seven times and cruise to their 23rd league win of the campaign, and the 12th at home in front of their joyous supporters.
It seems to be a matter of when, not if, Stow secure a top three finish, with the only thing now stopping them from a return to the Premier Division being whether they raise the funds needed to improve their floodlights, a necessary requirement if they are to be allowed to go up a division.
But Andrews is confident the club will reach the £10,000 target to make the improvements: “I don’t think it will stop us getting promotion. I think there’s a conscious effort that we’ll make sure it happens one way or another.”
Stowmarket Town: Higgins, Licence (L Clarke 69), A Clarke (c), Carver, Wright, Marjoram, Baker, Moore (Howell 69), Holder, Garrett (Tjituoga 79), Bugg. Attendance: 83. Free Press man of the match: Steve Holder.