THURLOW NUNN PREMIER DIVISION
Haverhill Rovers 0
Newmarket Town 1
Haverhill Rovers are at a crossroads, according to manager Ben Cowling, with the next few games key to their season.
His comments come after a narrow 1-0 home defeat to third-placed Newmarket Town, a game he felt his side could have won.
But, instead, it was Rovers’ fifth loss in seven matches as their opponents picked up their fifth win in seven after a match of few chances at either end.
And Cowling believes the team’s fortunes in the league rest on the remaining fixtures in October, with their next game on Saturday at home to Stanway Rovers (3pm).
“We stand at a crossroads,” he said. “We have enough quality in the squad to be aiming high.
“Newmarket are a very good side, make no mistake, and they are going to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
“But we also had a chance to beat them, it was a tight game.
“We should be taking heart from that but also learning and aspiring to be where they are in the league.
“We don’t have to do that overnight but we’re on the right path.
“I think I’m right in thinking we haven’t been beaten by any team below us so we’re definitely comfortable where we are. But I’m also confident we can go higher.
“What we’re missing is that touch in the final moments.
“We’re nearly there but that final touch is where we need to make those extra steps.
“If we can do that, we would be unbeatable.”
He praised the debut performance of Jemel Fox, who made his surprise debut for Rovers on Tuesday evening, after signing for rival Stowmarket Town in the summer.
“Jemel was what we were missing, particularly in defence,” Cowling said.
“I think we have the availability and flexibility to play any style and tactics we want now.
“He is a fantastic addition to the squad.”
He unfortunately marked his debut with a loss, however, with Newmarket Town taking the lead in the 35th minute.
Haverhill’s Jonathan Milne had shown the first intent on 22 minutes as he grazed the side netting of the away side’s goal with a shot from just outside the box but it was Newmarket who took the lead soon after.
The goal came from a corner, whipped in at near head height in front of the near post. Steve Holder got to it first and diverted it in from a tight angle.
There were few clear chances in the game but, 11 minutes after the break, Rory Jebb had what was Haverhill’s best chance.
A ball came flying over the heads of both Newmarket defenders who scrambled to get back, but Jebb was ahead.
His first touch was fantastic as he controlled it in to his path, but his resultant shot had little power and hit goalkeeper Alex Archer’s outstretched legs.
Rovers had several other near chances but they came to nothing with the final touch or pass not enough to beat The Jockeys defence.
Newmarket had two other close calls on the home goal themselves, but Rovers goalkeeper Charlie Turner had a solid game in the net.
He saved well after Steve Spriggs was given too much room in the home penalty area and Austen Diaper hit the crossbar with a shot on the turn near the end of the match — both were saves that sparked claps of appreciation from the crowd.
Cowling acknowledged Newmarket’s strength from set-pieces and said it was an area the team needed to improve on.
“They were strong at set-pieces and we didn’t defend as well as we should have,” he said.
“We’ll work on that before Saturday. September was a tough month with our fixtures, we played a lot of the top sides, and that’s why October is so important.
“Stanway are a few places below so it’s a must-win.”