THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Haverhill Rovers 1
Haverhill Borough 0
The town turned red on Friday night in Haverhill, as Rovers beat Borough 1-0 on home turf in their second ever meeting on the football field.
It was a mid-table fixture in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division and it was Rovers who took the spoils, to level the head-to-head to one-all.
In last season’s FA Vase fixture, Borough were the victors by the same scoreline on their 3G pitch.
But a repeat performance was not to be, as it was new Rovers player-manager Marc Abbott who enjoyed success from his first game in charge.
It was a predictably fiery encounter, which saw Borough player Ryan Weaver dismissed to the dressing room in the 36th minute for a second yellow card offence.
It was the first of two football derbies in the town this season, with the return leg rescheduled for Friday, December 29 following an abandonment.
It was originally scheduled for September 29 but was called off when a spectator suffered a heart attack and required emergency treatment at the ground.
And the first game this season didn’t disappoint for the 415 spectators in attendance, as a highly tense encounter saw a red card, a debut and 36 fouls.
It was also new Abbott’s first game in charge of Rovers, after taking over from Ben Cowling last week and both managers’ first Haverhill derby at the helm.
Borough manager Anthony Choat said: “I’m actually really happy, I think there are lots of positives and I’m proud of the lads.
“We played the best part of 70 minutes with 10 men so it was always going to be difficult.
“And, you know what, there were moments — we came really close to nicking a goal at the end.
“Ryan Weaver is probably the most gutted man in Haverhill right now, the referee felt he made the right decision and that’s that. Hopefully Ryan learns.
“But I’m really pleased with how we responded tactically, you can’t be chasing a game for 70 minutes with a man down.
“We defended and absorbed a lot of pressure and then went for it in the last quarter.
“I asked for passion, work rate and effort and I got plenty of it. Only a win would have made me happier.”
Abbott said the result was the ‘perfect start’ as manager, in a game he felt his side controlled.
“We kept possession at a steady pace throughout,” he said. “And we’ve sharpened our play up from recent weeks.
“We have clever players and they are able to adapt and change plans in a game. We made a tactical change at half-time and it led to the goal.
“Crucially, we kept patience as well.”
The goalkeepers almost stole the show as they made fine saves in a meeting which saw Rovers dominate the possession, but not the game.
But it was a match of few clear-cut chances, as neither team were prepared to risk leaving themselves vulnerable at the back.
Rovers’ Jonathan Milne proved the only one able to convert in the 49th minute — from a fluid passage of play down the left.
Coupled with Weaver’s sending off in the first half, this had a direct impact on Borough’s attacking opportunities and tactics.
The red card was a shame for a game that early exchanges suggested could have been end-to-end.
His first caution came after just two minutes, as both teams struggled to control their aggression in the opening exchanges.
Rovers’ Luke Haines was also cautioned early on.
Borough spent a lot of the game on the back foot, although a great save in the 61st minute denied Lee Hurkett from a free-kick, to remind the players and the crowd that it was a game that could, ultimately, still go either way.
At times the match appeared to be less about football than the bragging rights but there were still moments — as 16-year-old Ben Tait made his senior football debut from the bench for the home side.
The teams are now completely level in their head-to-head record — each with a 1-0 home win to their name — ahead of December’s clash.