Ex-pro Leroy Lita helps Haverhill Rovers score five to progress past FA Vase first stage
Haverhill Rovers boss Fergus O’Callaghan was delighted by the character on show from his young side, as they bounced back from a hefty defeat to leap the first hurdle in this season’s Buildbase FA Vase.
The Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division club beat lower-league Benfleet 5-2 on the road on Sunday to progress through the first round qualifying.
It saw the Step 5 side overcome a team from the First Division South (Step 6) to move a stride closer to the Wembley final, while also setting up a rematch against Colney Heath, the side that dumped them out of the Emirates FA Cup last month, in the next round.
“It feels like a chance to get our own back on them, there’s excitement to get another go at them,” O’Callaghan said.
“We went into the Benfleet game with a bit of pressure on us after losing heavily in the last game, and losing heavily in the FA Cup, as well as the nerves of facing a team we don’t know.
“And then we went a goal down, it was nerve-racking to watch. But I’m delighted with the way the boys knuckled down, worked harder and came back for the win.”
The arrival of newly retired professional Leroy Lita, he added, will only help to boost their attacking prowess in the future.
The former Norwich City, Middlesbrough, Reading and Bristol City striker, who also has nine England U21 caps, has been ‘helping out’ at The Culina Hub, The New Croft in the past few weeks.
O’Callaghan said: “He’s going to start doing his (coaching) badges I think, it’s the very first start of the next step for him and it’s a real plus for us for the time he’s here.
“He expressed an interest in coming along to coach – he and James (Bloomfield, assistant manager) know each other from Norwich – and wanted to know if he could help out with the youth team and first team too.
“It’s been immediately positive, you watch him in training and you can just see the difference in movement and anticipation, we’ve already scored plenty of goals this season but I hope he can help us to score even more.”
Despite going a goal behind early on at Benfleet, Max Dinnell quickly equalised before captain Alfie Carroll fired in for a 2-1 lead.
Two became three for Haverhill on 32 minutes from the spot, Luke Haines converting after Dinnell was brought down in the area, with a further Benfleet own goal ahead of the half-time whistle sending Rovers in with a 4-1 lead.
Dinnell netted his second, and the team’s fifth goal three minutes into the second half to secure a place in the next round, despite Benfleet pulling back another score in the 50th minute.
They were without Ipswich Town U23 loanee Toby Egan, who was sidelined with a head injury but is expected to make his return to action this week.
Rovers were due to return to league action at home to Mildenhall Town on Wednesday evening, before again playing host on Saturday, to FC Clacton (3pm).
“It’s almost impossible to predict,” he said of the upcoming game.
“We watched them (Clacton) against Hadleigh and thought we had a good chance, and look how that game ended up (Rovers lost 6-2 away to Hadleigh).
“There’s a possibility we will suffer from a sort of big win syndrome with such a young squad, that tiredness – particularly mentally – will see some inconsistent results.
“They will be able to step up against the top 10 sides but it is much harder to step up for all the games and not take results for granted.
“That’s where the experienced heads in my team – and the addition of people like Leroy – will be much needed.”