Saturday's local football round-up
It was an action-packed afternoon of football for our sides as the Bostik and Southern Leagues got their seasons under way, while for other teams they embarked on the road to Wembley in the extra preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup.
It was a 250-mile round trip for Needham Market as they started life in the newly-formed Evo Stik Southern League Premier Central at Bedworth United.
However, the journey home will have been an enjoyable one for manager Richard Wilkins and his men after they romped to a 4-0 victory.
Summer signing Joe Marsden was the star of the show with two goals, while Kieran Morphew and an own goal completed the scoring.
Meanwhile, in the Bostik League North Division, AFC Sudbury got their campaign off to a perfect start with a 4-0 win on the road at Tilbury.
Billy Holland got the ball rolling with a goal in the 40th minute before second-half strikes from Phil Kelly, Callum Harrison and Darryl Coakley secured the three points for Mark Morsley's side, who were without new signing Paul Hayes – former Scunthorpe United striker – due to international clearance not being received in time.
As for Mildenhall Town, they kicked off with a 1-1 draw at home against Maldon & Tiptree.
The hosts dominated much of the encounter at Recreation Way, creating numerous chances, but after the returning John Sands saw his second-half penalty saved by Maldon goalkeeper Ben McNamara, the visitors took the lead 15 minutes from time through De-Carrey Sheriff.
However, Mildenhall were level just three minutes later thanks to their captain Luke Butcher after he smartly lifted Tom Debenham's knockdown into the top corner.
There was disappointment for fellow North Division sides Bury Town and Soham Town Rangers, though, as both suffered defeats away from home.
Bury went down 3-1 at newly-promoted Felixstowe & Walton United in an encounter that saw the Blues' Tommy Robinson controversially dismissed during the first half.
Ben Chenery's team were already a goal down by that point – former Sudbury and Needham Market player Rhys Henry finding the net in the fifth minute.
Quickfire goals from Miles Powell and Rhys Barber at the start of the second half put Felixstowe in command, with new signing Ryan Horne adding a consolation for Bury in the 64th minute.
The hosting Seasiders also finished the contest with 10 men following the dismissal of Jack Ainsley for two bookable offences, but it did little to impact on the final scoreline.
It was always going to be tricky for Soham at title favourites Heybridge Swifts, who won thanks to second-half goals from ex-Sudbury duo Sam Bantick and Luke Callander.
In the FA Cup, all eyes were on Haverhill as Rovers and Borough faced off in front of the BBC cameras at The New Croft.
It was higher-league Rovers that secured the bragging rights and a place in the preliminary round with a 2-0 triumph courtesy of a goal in either half from Mikey Davis and the recently-arrived Prince Mutswunguma. Reaction from both managers can be found here.
Elsewhere in the competition, Stowmarket Town boss Rick Andrews admitted to Friday's Free Press that Step 4 side Basildon United would provide a stern test and he was proven right as the Essex side ran out 2-0 winners at Greens Meadow.
Newmarket Town fared better, emerging as 2-0 victors at Cockfosters with Rhys Thorpe and player-boss Michael Shinn on target for the travelling Jockeys.
Shinn's men were also helped by the home outfit having two players sent off, including their goalkeeper.
Long Melford are also into the next round thanks to their 3-1 win at Redbridge, where Hassan Ally, Steve Adams and David Lopez (penalty) were all on target for Jamie Bradbury's team.
It was also the same margin of victory for Hadleigh United at the expense of Great Yarmouth Town.
Kieran Turner, Kyle Cassell and Danny Thrower netted the goals for the Brettsiders, who are through to the preliminary round for the second season running.
They will be joined by Thetford Town after they beat Fakenham Town 1-0 at home on Friday night through Telmo Rocha's goal, but the FA Cup curse has continued for Ely City manager Brady Stone after his team exited the competition at the hands of Northampton Sileby Rangers, going down 2-0.
The result means that Stone, who was appointed in 2014, has still never won a FA Cup tie in charge of the Robins.
It is also the end of the road for Walsham-le-Willows following their 3-1 loss at Walthamstow.
Framlingham Town and Whitton United, meanwhile, will have to do it all again in a replay after they played out a 1-1 draw.
There was plenty of goals in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North, 10 of which were scored by Lakenheath in a remarkable afternoon at The Pit.
Kelvin Enaro helped himself to four goals and Matt Hayden bagged a hat-trick as Lakenheath – playing their first ever Step 6 match at home – hammered visiting Felixstowe & Walton United Reserves 10-1.
Fellow promoted side Harleston Town could not quite match those exploits, but they still recorded an impressive 5-1 win at home over Downham Town.
Nathan Stone notched a brace, with Lawrence Cheese, Kyle Baker and Scott Roberts adding their names to the scoresheet for Adam Gusterson's charges.
Diss Town won by the odd goal in five at home against King's Lynn Town Reserves – a result that saw the Tangerines bounce back from their midweek defeat to Mulbarton Wanderers.
Steve Holder and Charlie Lambe scored for the second weekend running, while Sam Last netted an 84th-minute winner after Diss goalkeeper Jake Hayhoe had saved a penalty.
Goals from Craig Jennings, Lamell Howell and Ross Henry earned Debenham LC their first win of the season as they overcome hosting Wisbech St Mary 3-0.
Following on from their first team's eye-catching win at Tilbury, AFC Sudbury Reserves kept up the good feeling at the club with a 3-2 victory at home against Norwich CBS, while Needham Market Reserves continued their positive start to the season with a 1-1 draw at March Town United.
And in the First Division South third-placed Halstead Town are level on points with leaders Holland after they beat Benfleet 2-0 at home.
Kane Gilbert was among the scorers in the second half, atoning for his miss from the penalty spot earlier in the encounter.
* For reaction to all of this weekend's action – plus a look ahead to what is to come next Saturday – see this week's print editions.