MATCH REPORT: Haverhill Rovers 0 Mildenhall Town 1
A Sam Parkinson thunderbolt lifted an otherwise dull affair this afternoon as visiting Mildenhall replicated their 1-0 success at the New Croft in the FA Cup back in August.
The left-back’s 25 yard strike with his weaker right foot flew beyond the reach of Alex Archer into the top right-hand corner in the 64th minute, and was no less than a rejuvenated Hall deserved as they made it three straight victories in all competitions in 2016.
It consigned Rovers, who started the day sixth in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, six places above Mildenhall, to back-to-back league defeats at the New Croft, and three in all competitions with the 4-2 Suffolk FA Premier Cup defeat to National League Lowestoft Town last month being followed up by a 3-0 reverse against Premier Division new boys Long Melford on Boxing Day.
Both sides made a change apiece to their starting line-ups, with Rovers boss Michael Shinn bringing back Martyn Farrant from illness to bolster his central defence, while teenager Will Gardner was unavailable through illness himself, so dropped out.
Hall had Sam Parkinson back at full-back for Joe Asensi, who was carrying a hamstring injury but named on the bench.
The pitch only just passed a morning pitch inspection after the recent deluge of wet weather and it was soon cutting up as both sides struggled to play their usual attractive brans of football.
Mildenhall’s Dan Brown looked lively early on, stretching the Rovers backline on a couple of occassions but being thwarted on one foray into the penalty area by an excellent last-ditch sliding challenge from Marcus Hunt.
Tyler Kemp almost pulled off an audacious opener for the hosts when his long-range effort from the left wing had Josh Pope grateful to see it dip over his crossbar when back-pedalling.
The referee, Phil Crossland, came in for heavy criticism from the home fans when he let an apparent elbow by Brown which saw Hunt go to ground clutching his face go without punishment, choosing instead to call both captains forward to encourage their players to calm things down.
But he was soon incurring more of the Rovers’ faithful’s wrath when moments later Leon Bailey’s name was going into his book for a full blooded challenge, which appeared to be with his studs showing, on Gareth Simpson.
Hall began to impose themselves more as an attacking unit and went close through Luke Butcher’s header following a corner, though Archer came through the goalless half having had very little to do.
Rovers had seen less of the ball in the final third but had at least registered the game’s first shot on target, with Ryan Weaver’s drilled effort having been straight at Pope.
The second half saw the ball become bogged down in a midifeld battle as both sides struggled to get any meaningful attacks going on a by now gluepot of a pitch.
But the breakthrough, when it came after the hour mark, was worth waiting for as an attack down the right-hand side saw the ball come across the area for Sam Parkinson to collect, steady himself and arrow into the top corner across goal with his right foot. Rovers will have been disappointed no-one closed him down quicker.
Hall struggled to cut loose after taking the lead though and the game remained on a knife-edge as both sides replaced tired legs looking for a spark to re-ignite the match.
The hosts came the closest with one of those players, Ryan Stevenson, scooping the ball over the crossbar under pressure from the on-rushing Pope in the 93rd minute after Weaver’s cute ball had threaded him through on goal.
It was to be the chance Rovers were left to rue as shortly after the referee blew up on what had been a well fought contest, but one which, in the end, deserved to fall in Mildenhall’s favour.
Haverhill Echo Man of The Match: Tyler Kemp.
Bury Free Press Man of The Match: Dan Brown.