Clash of the titans
It’s almost a year to the day since Haverhill experienced its first ever semi-professional football derby — and the town is gearing up for a repeat on Friday night (7.45pm).
Borough emerged victorious by a single goal (1-0) in last year’s FA Vase 2nd qualifying round match, played on September 23, 2016, and will again play host on their 3G pitch.
It is only the second time the two teams have met since Borough, initially called Haverhill Sports Association (HSA) for its first two seasons, was formed in 2011.
This year, however, the teams are playing at the same level, following Borough’s promotion to the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division at the end of last season — and will play each other in a league, rather than cup, match.
Borough manager Anthony Choat (pictured top right) has said past results mean nothing, particularly a narrow 1-0 victory, but is happy to take on the underdog mantle.
“We’re the little brother at The New Croft,” he said. “So we’re going into it with no pressure or expectations on our shoulders.
“It’s our first season in this league and, to be honest, that’s my focus.
“It’s fantastic for the town and local football to have a derby like this, but I would prefer to avoid relegation than beat Rovers — if I had to choose.
“The bragging rights of beating Rovers would be pretty great obviously but I’ve told the boys to just enjoy it.
“The shackles are off on Friday, there’s no pressure on us and so we can enjoy our football and just go for it.”
He said the attendance of last year’s derby, which stood at 654, was great for both clubs and hoped derby fixtures like this could grow and boost local interest in the clubs.
Rovers manager Cowling (above left) agreed the game is great for the town, to raise the profile of football in the area, but is approaching it like ‘any other league game where there’s a real opportunity to get some points’.
Rovers could be without first-choice keeper Charlie Turner, who is suffering ongoing issues with a dead leg, but Cowling is encouraged by Lennon Westley’s debut performance in the 2-0 victory over Ely City on Tuesday.
“It’s a concern for us,” he said. “But we have two good goalkeepers. We started the season well, had a dip for a few games but came back with a win on Tuesday against Ely.
“So we’re really up for this and feeling good about it.
“There’s expectation on us to win, I think that’s clear.
“The celebrations last year rankled with some of the boys, no-one wants to go down to the pub after losing a derby, especially not twice, but I’m confident that won’t happen.
“But we do have to take the emotion out of it a little, and control our ambitions.
“I also think the 3G pitch will suit us at the minute — we have a lot of skilful players.”
The return fixture in the league — at home to Rovers — will be played on November 3.