THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Haverhill Rovers 2 Newmarket Town 4
If the early stages of the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division season have taught us anything, it’s that taking in a Newmarket Town game will rarely leave punters feeling short changed.
The two-goal deficit that Kevin Grainger’s men faced heading into the break at The New Croft took their goals against tally to 23 in just 12 outings. Conversely, their four second-half goals mean they have found the net 32 times - six more than any other club in the division at the time of writing.
The clinical touch in recent weeks has often been provided by Lewis Whitehead, who took his personal tally since a summer switch from Great Shelford to 10 with a brace. The lively frontman actually had the perfect opportunity to notch up a hat-trick, only to see his stoppage-time penalty saved.
Yet, while it was Newmarket that made the short journey back with all three points in tow, Haverhill’s impact on the encounter should not be overlooked.
For 45 minutes, Ben Cowling’s charges were solid defensively and dynamic in attack, so much so that they had decent opportunities to take an either greater winning margin into the interval.
With a return of seven goals this term, it is no secret that Danny Hill is Rovers’ danger-man and predictably the ball out wide to the left — where the ex-West Wratting player had taken up residence — was the home side’s preferred route to goal.
It was from that side that Hill got the better of James Chivers in 13th minute before cutting the ball back for an advancing Luke Haines. The midfielder had time and space, but shot straight at Ben Nower in the away side’s goal.
That effort may have been on the tame side, though Haines went on to atone by playing a leading role in both of his team’s goals.
Those that made up a congested penalty box appeared to be expecting a cross when the number eight lined up a free-kick on the right flank in the 27th minute. However, Haines chanced his luck with a left footed strike that caught out Nower, who could not get across his line in time to save.
The experienced Nower was left with even more egg on his face four minutes later when he came to meet Haines’ hoisted cross into Newmarket territory, only to beaten by a leaping Rory Jebb as the striker headed into the net.
Now with their tails firmly up, the hosts really should have been three goals to the good in the 38th minute. Chivers’ header, which was intended for Nower, lacked power and Hill pounced. For once, though, composure deserted Hill as he fired over.
Up the other end the visiting Jockeys posed a threat on occasions throughout the first half, but their decision making in the final third left a lot to be desired.
That changed after the restart — starting in the 56th minute when the complexion of the contest was turned on its head. Having previously seen a succession of corners come to nothing, this time the Rovers defence could not clear Jamie Thurlbourne’s delivery and Chivers reacted quickest to power home.
Sufficiently boosted, Newmarket found themselves level just three minutes later. Owen Boddey failed to cut out a pass, sending Whitehead scampering clear and faced with Haverhill goalkeeper Charlie Turner, the Newmarket marksman made no mistake.
By this point Rovers were struggling to get their main man Hill involved, but in contrast there were no such problems where Newmarket and Whitehead were concerned.
There was a sense of inevitability when the pacey striker put the away team in front for the first time 11 minutes from the end. After exchanging passes with centre-back Charlie Bowen, who was still in the opposition’s area following a set-piece situation, Whitehead clipped the ball in.
Owen Thompson did not have Whitehead’s golden touch when he found space down the right soon after, with the Haverhill substitute seeing his low effort turned away by Nower.
It was Haverhill’s last meaningful attempt, but there was still enough time for two pieces of goalmouth drama with Whitehead the central figure. In the first minute of stoppage Turner guessed correctly to deny Whitehead from the spot, before he bizarrely won a second penalty just a few seconds later.
The duty from 12 yards was passed on to skipper Jack Watson and he made no mistake to seal all three points.
Haverhill: Turner, Geoghegan (Lewis 64), Halls, Milne, Holmes, Boddey, Hill, Haines, Jebb, Bradley (Burr 85), Stevenson (Thompson 74)
Newmarket: Nower, Chivers, Betson, Bowen, Webster, Watson, Paterson (Goddard 86), Snaith, Thurlbourne (Napier 67), Diaper, Whitehead
Man of the Match: Lewis Whitehead
* For match reaction, see the next print editions of the Haverhill Echo and Newmarket Journal.