MATCH REPORT: Willows boost survival hopes to heap more pressure on rivals Thetford
THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Thetford Town 2
Paul Smith hailed Walsham-le-Willows’ resilience as they eased their relegation fears by securing a 5-2 derby-win over rivals Thetford Town.
In what proved a lively encounter at Summer Road, in which the visitors ended with 10-men following captain Sam Bond’s straight red card, The Willows fought back from Olly Standley’s opener, with hat-trick hero Tanner Call and strike partner Andrew Wood (2) inspiring them to victory.
And despite conceding a late second goal to substitute J Bulchman, Smith was left delighted with a vital second successive victory which lifted them to 16th, two places and three points ahead of Thetford in the final relegation spot.
“We knew it was going to be a very scrappy game but we dug in and got the result we desperately needed after a very poor start,” he said.
“I wanted a strong start which didn’t happen but we responded brilliantly and from then on we didn’t look like losing the game.
“It was a massively important win for the club. Winning back-to-back games is credit to the players and hopefully we can build on this and keep on winning.
“There is no reason why we can’t now build on this against Haverhill Rovers here again on Saturday (3pm) and make it nine points out of nine.
“Deep down I’m more than confident that we are good enough to survive but we are down there for a reason so we have to prove we are good enough.”
It was the visitors who enjoyed the brighter start and opened the scoring after just two minutes when Andrew Cusack’s cross from the left found the unmarked Standley to sweep the ball past D Moyes.
The hosts responded brilliantly and levelled 13 minutes later as Wood raced on to a long punt up-field, rounded the on-rushing M Barker and slid the ball into the empty net.
The Brecklanders came agonisingly close to regaining the lead in the 20th minute when R Pearson beat Walsham custodian Moyes to Bond’s deep free-kick only to watch as his header whistled past the left upright.
The Willows capitalised fully on the let-off with three further goals in a devastating 10 minute period before the interval.
Their second came in almost identical fashion to the first as Thetford failed to deal with another long punt upfield with Call this time racing clear of the defence before coolly slotting in after 30 minutes.
A third arrived seven minutes later as the visitors again were left to rue a defensive mix-up from a long clearance, allowing Wood to fire home after good approach work from strike partner Call.
And just three minutes later the Willows extended their lead further as Wood turned provider with his low cross from the left being dispatched brilliantly with a first-time strike from Call via the right upright.
That momentum continued with the home side after the break, who after probing for most of the second-half finally extended their advantage in the 73rd minute as Call reacted quickest to a Wood flick on to finish smartly once again and complete his hat-trick.
The visitors finally responded and were gifted a second goal with a little under 15 minutes remaining as Bulchman pounced on a defensive mix-up by Moyes, who spilled the ball at the striker’s feet to simply prod home.
However, there was to be no miraculous comeback as the encounter ended on a sour note for Thetford with skipper Bond receiving his marching orders for an off the ball incident involving Ryan Clarke, capping off a forgetful evening for the visitors.
“There was a real lack of fight and that is massively disappointing,” said Thetford Town manager Danny White.
“We knew it was a real six-pointer and having started so brightly and going ahead, it is disappointing that we didn’t really turn up and the lack of passion on display.
“When I took the job I knew it was going to a mammoth task but we will keep fighting until the very end to get out of trouble.”