THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Long Melford 2
Haverhill Rovers 3
Ben Cowling praised his Rovers side’s ability to grind out a win when not at their best in Friday’s entertaining 3-2 derby victory at Long Melford.
Struggling Melford, who had been three points from the bottom three and without a win in their last six, had looked well in control after taking an early lead, yet despite dominating the opening 45 minutes they went into the break 2-1 behind.
Scott Yearling’s second-minute strike following a Reece Clarke free-kick could and should have been the start of a one-sided affair. But it was overturned by a sweet 30-yard rocket by Luke Haines out of the blue in the 29th minute, before Jonathon Milne slammed in a mis-hit corner on the run on the stroke of half-time.
The Villagers fell on the backfoot at the start of the second half, but were handed a lifeline when Hassan Ally had his heels clipped in the area by Rovers skipper Sam Holmes, and Will Wingfield converted the penalty, only for Rovers substitute Ben Bradley — in his first game back since his cousin’s tragic death in a car crash — to be given time and space to slide in what proved to be the clincher in the 68th minute.
“We weren’t at our best, certainly in the first half,” said Rovers boss Cowling. “Our defending from set plays and second phases was sloppy at best.
“It improved slightly in the second half but I think for me the best thing about tonight is we have won when not playing well and we have not really done that as a group this year.
“The games we have won we have dominated and played really good football. But tonight we have ground one out and I am really happy about that.”
Despite their lack of possession, Cowling did not think it was an undeserved result.
“In terms of chances created, I think we just about edged it.
“Danny (Hill) has gone through and missed one and Mason (Newman) has gone through and Ally has gone through for them a couple of times and could have done better in the second half.
“It is a big three points to give us a bit of a platform to kick on, now we are nestled nicely in the top half, and go into the cup game.”
Due to play at Walsham-le-Willows in the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup last night, Rovers are without a game this weekend before travelling to current second-placed Stanway Rovers on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Haverhill: Turner, Geoghegan, Halls, Hunt, Holmes, Boddey, Hill, Milne (Bradley 55), Jebb (Tickner 82), Haines, Newman (Stevenson 69). Subs not used: Lewis, Shulver.
Haverhill Echo Man of the Match: Ben Bradley. Attendance: 96