OMNI FREIGHT SERVICES SUFFOLK PREMIER CUP
Haverhill Rovers 2
Kirkley & Pakefield 5
Rovers boss Marc Abbott believes full credit must go to their opponents, who ‘thoroughly deserved’ their victory in the quarter-final of the Suffolk Premier Cup.
On paper, he said, Tuesday’s game was very winnable and a great opportunity to ‘go another step’ in the competition.
But, on the night, Rovers ‘struggled to contain’ a rampant Kirkley during a second half spell as their Premier Cup run ground to a halt.
He said that while he was ‘disappointed’ not to progress to the semi-final, he accepted the team were beaten by a better side on the night.
It had started well for The New Croft side, who fired themselves into a two-goal lead before being pegged back and overtaken in a fast-paced and entertaining match.
The hosts led after 19 minutes, with Jemel Fox sending a low cross from the left towards Luke Haines, who beat the ‘keeper to score and capitalise on Rovers’ early pressure.
Their second goal came in slightly fortunate circumstances, in the 33rd minute, after great work by new arrival Joe Bennett.
Fox, again involved in the build-up play, put a direct ball down the left wing for Bennett to run on to.
He beat Kirkley’s ‘keeper to the ball on the edge of the area and tried to chip him, but his shot lacked the power or accuracy — and it looked as though the visitors would easily mop up a clearance.
But Rafal Wozniak put himself in a good position to pressure the defender tasked with a clearance, with the ball ricocheting into the net off Wozniak’s chest.
But that was as good as it would get for Rovers as the momentum shifted to Kirkley, who pulled one back four minutes later from a corner and then equalised from a spot kick — with even the visiting fans conceding it was a ‘soft’ penalty.
After a first half that saw momentum swing back and forth, a competitive second half was on the cards, but Kirkley upped the ante as they piled pressure on the home side. And it paid off in the 51st minute, with Kirkley netting to go ahead for the first time.
The hosts thought they had equalised in the 65th minute, but the goal was ruled offside.
There was confusion afterwards, with many believing the goal should have stood, as it appeared to have been knocked goalward by a Kirkley player from an Abbott free-kick on the edge of the area.
But, Rovers remained a goal behind until their hope turned to despair with Kirkley’s fourth goal just four minutes later before their fate was sealed in the 72nd minute.
Some good feet from Liam Harvey-Cooper saw him round two defenders before putting a low shot past Rovers ‘keeper Evan Jeckells to wrap up a 5-2 victory for the visitors.
Kirkley progress to the semi-final as the only Step 5 side remaining. In the other quarter-finals, Bury Town (away) beat Brantham Athletic 3-1, Leiston FC (home) beat Ipswich Town U18s 2-1 and Needham Market (home) beat Felixstowe & Walton 3-2.
Abbott said: “Kirkley rode a big wave in the first 30 minutes so full credit to them, they thoroughly deserved their win. They did the basics really well and we struggled to contain them.
“It is, of course, disappointing to lose though, it’s tough to take as I felt this fixture was an opportunity to go another step in the competition, especially once we went two goals ahead in the first half an hour.
“I thought we had them, we were cruising and coasting at 2-0 up.
“On reflection, we relaxed too much and allowed them back in the game. It’s our weakness at the moment — when we are on top, we aren’t making it difficult enough or dominating the games — allowing teams back into it.”
Speaking of Bennett, who arrived from Soham Town Rangers last week in time for Rovers’ 4-4 away draw with Saffron Walden on Friday night, Abbott said: “He brings real quality. He knows the game really well and he has some top attributes.”
In that eight-goal fest, goals for the home side’s goals came from Haines, Rory Jebb, Jonathan Milne and Jamie Judge.
Abbott added: “Bennett brings another dimension to the team and adds that scoring performance we were lacking. His arrival is great for our goal tally going forward.”
He hopes to see evidence of that on Saturday, as Rovers host Thetford Town (3pm).
He said: “We need to put this result to bed quickly and refocus on the league.
“Dwelling on it wouldn’t be good, but there are still things we should take from the game — such as two goals.
“But we’ve also let nine in over our last two games, so a clean sheet is the target.”
ROVERS : Jeckells 7, Carroll 6, Fox 7, Milne 6, Geoghegan 6 (Bradley, 71’), Holmes 7, Abbott 6, Miles 6, Wozniak 6 (Jebb, 54’), Bennett 8, Haines 7 (Clarke, 63’)
• Haverhill Rovers A will look to make the last four of the John Ablett Cup when they go up against Suffolk Punch at Puddlebrook on Saturday (1.45pm).