THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Brantham Athletic 1
Manager Paul Smith believes Walsham-le-Willows can now kick-start their campaign following a timely victory over visiting Brantham Athletic.
Following a difficult start to the new season which had seen the Willows pick up just six points from their opening eight matches, the hosts secured only their second success courtesy of goals from Andrew Wood, Sam Peters and an own goal from Matt Travis, who had previously levelled.
And after bouncing back to winning ways in the league, manager Smith is confident his side can continue to build on momentum with ‘winnable’ games in their next five fixtures, starting with a trip to Fakenham Town on Saturday (3pm) followed by a Suffolk Premier Cup clash at home against Long Melford on Wednesday (7.45pm).
“It has been a tough start to the season. We’ve been playing well but not getting any luck,” he said.
“Today the boys looked lively and deserved the victory, it was our just rewards.
“I said before the game I don’t mind how you play as long as we get the three points but thankfully we were the better team and got the result.
“The only issue with younger players is that they are not always going to be consistent and so we need to patient with them.
“We have a run of five games that are all winnable and hopefully this is the real start to our season and we can start climbing the table.
“We will go to Fakenham with confidence looking for a win and hopefully keep this sort of form going.”
It was the visitors who settled quickest into Saturday’s encounter and created the first real openings.
The first of which came after five minutes as Sean Gunn’s corner from the left-hand side was narrowly glanced over by strike partner Ollie Mann before former Willows player Dan Easlea lashed over wildly from the edge of the area four minutes later.
However, it was the home side who broke the deadlock in fortuitus circumstances after 23 minutes. On a day where the Willows were handing out free eggs to supporters as part of national Non-League Day, Brantham’s captain Travis was left with egg on his face after getting into a flap and inadvertently deflecting Woods’ drilled cross from the right into his own net,
But the towering centre-half made amends just three minutes later as he was on hand to prod home Mann’s drilled ball across the goal mouth from close range to level the scores.
Walsham responded strongly to the setback and finished the half in the ascendency, going close to regaining the lead on two separate occasions.
Both chances fell to the usually reliable Wood who blazed over from the close range from the first in the 42nd minute after good build-up work from Josh Curry and the lively Ryan Jarrold before being denied by the crossbar moments before the break.
On that occasion Wood raced on to a pass over the top from Curry but again spurned the opportunity as he expertly controlled the ball under pressure and lifted the ball over the on-rushing Ryan Beddingfield but could only watch on as his effort came back off the woodwork as the scores remained level at the break.
As they did in the first half, Brantham enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the early stages of second and came agonisingly close to going ahead in spectacular fashion after 58 minutes.
Sean Bartlett seized upon Walsham goalkeeper Craig Brand’s poor clearance and from the half-way line sent a first time effort towards goal with the ball narrowly falling just over the cross bar.
The hosts weathered the early storm and responded brightly with Wood curling a first time effort just wide after 63 minutes, while substitute Ryan Clarke lashed over wildly from 25 yards two minutes later following good approach from the lively Tanner Call.
At the other end, Josh Curry was let off a defensive lapse in concentration in the 70th minute as Mann robbed the ball from him in a dangerous position but could not capitalise on the opportunity, firing over Brand’s crossbar with a powerful right foot effort.
And he was made to rue his wastefulness with 10 minutes remaining as Walsham regained the lead.
After a period in possession, substitute Tom Driscoll released Wood with a ball over the top of Brantham’s static defensive line, with the powerful striker keeping his composure to shrug off Ed Nobbs inside the area before rounding Beddingfield and sliding the ball into the net.
But while the Willows’ fans may have been forgiven for not counting their chickens after a shaky start to the season, Peters put any doubts to bed with five minutes remaining, curling a superb left-footed free kick into the bottom right corner to seal all three points.
Walsham: Brand 7, Morton 7, PETERS 9, McConnell 7 (Driscoll 65 7), Clarke 6 (Sim 14 7), Kawaguchi 7, Jolland 8, Curry 6, Webb 7 (R Clark 67 7), Wood 7, Call 7
Free Press Man of The Match: Sam Peters.