A gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat to champions elect Norwich United has added to Haverhill Rovers’ belief that their stock is definitely on the rise.
Rovers gave as good as they got against the reigning Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division champions, and current league leaders, in their meeting at the New Croft on Saturday, only to lose to a 92nd minute Andy Eastaugh header from a controversial free-kick.
An outstanding performance from 18-year-old makeshift central defender Ty Alleyne helped keep prolific striker Matt Blake and his free-scoring side quiet, while Rovers had genuine opportunities to snatch an unlikely victory against a team with just one defeat in 22 matches.
The performance gave rise to optimism that tenth-placed Rovers, whose squad on Saturday had an average age of just 22, are heading in the right direction.
Player-manager, Michael Shinn (the oldest in the team at 31) said: “Although we had lost the game you could see the boys sensed we are not that far way from being a really good side in this division.
“We were competing against the top team who don’t lose that many games and had one or two chances ourselves and restricted them to only a handful of chances.”
Since the 3-0 home defeat to Long Melford on Boxing Day, Rovers’ run of January fixtures has seen them lose 1-0 to both Mildenhall Town and Norwich United and earn a 0-0 draw away at Brantham Athletic.
Despite the return of just one point from January’s games the level of performances has pleased Shinn.
He said: “The Melford game was disappointing and we knew we were not at it on the day, for whatever reason, but since then performances have been really good and we are creating chances and we are tight at the back.
“There’s still a great belief in the squad.
“Their manager (Damian Hilton) said after Saturday’s game ‘you know what, the boys have worked extremely hard for you and you should have got something from the game’ and for the manager of Norwich United to say that says a lot.”
Alleyne will be suspended for Rovers tough match at fourth-placed Godmanchester Rovers on Saturday (3pm), while regular centre-half Nick Wilderspin remains injured, but Marcus Hunt will deputise.
Winger Owen Longley, who joined Rovers in the summer from Haverhill Borough, has joined Halstead Town after struggling to dislodge Blake Kicks from the starting XI.
•Haverhill Borough are at home to Diss Town in the Thurlow Nunn First Division on Saturday (3pm). After the game there is a Race Night followed at 7.30pm by a performance from the top David Bowie tribute act, Pop-Up Bowie.
Tickets for the gig, which is a fundraiser for the New Croft and Borough, are available from 01440 702137 or from the venue on the day.