Current Lakenheath and former Haverhill Borough and Haverhill Rovers manager Ben Cowling picks out his top three games
No-one knows the recent history of Haverhill’s two senior football teams better than Ben Cowling.
Having played more than 300 times for Haverhill Rovers, Cowling managed their reserves to great success before taking over at Haverhill Borough from the day they were first formed as Haverhill Sports Association (HSA) in the summer of 2011.
He guided them to the Essex & Suffolk Border League Division One title before taking them into second place in the Premier Division the following season and with it, promotion into the Thurlow Nunn League First Division.
Following the promotion, HSA was renamed Haverhill Borough and in their first season at Step 6 football finished in fourth place, only missing out on promotion to the Premier Division by one point.
He became chairman at the club prior to them winning another promotion and went on to manage Haverhill Rovers from May 2016 to November 2017 ahead of guiding Lakenheath in their first season in the Thurlow Nunn League.
He remains at Lakenheath and in their second season in the First Division North they were in second place and well on course for promotion before the coronavirus pandemic saw the season null and voided, subject to FA council ratification.
Of his top three games he has been involved in this century, he said: “I thought I’d go for one game from the three clubs I’ve mainly represented at senior level. It was very difficult to choose and I’ve had to leave out some brilliant games."
Date: April 25, 2007
Result: Haverhill Rovers 3 Saffron Walden Town 1
Why memorable: Thiswas a very strange but ultimately successful season for Rovers. After appointing Richard Carter during the summer a lot of the local players were eased out and the club embarked upon a record-breaking FA Cup run.
Carter was dismissed and the wage bill dramatically slashed in the autumn which led to myself and a couple of other local players returning under Steve Taylor.
It’s a great feeling winning cups and leagues and to do that for my hometown club, that I represented for around a decade, made it very special indeed
We had an excellent team which pushed each other and I played some of the best football of my career that year. In the league we secured promotion as runners-up on the final day but it was the First Division Knockout Cup Final that sticks out for me.
Goals from Colin Vowden and a overhead kick from Adam Salmons had us 2-1 ahead going into the final throws of the game which was sealed when I scored a left-footed effort into the top corner from just outside the box.
It’s a great feeling winning cups and leagues and to do that for my hometown club, that I represented for around a decade, made it very special indeed.
It was the third time Rovers had won that particular competition in six years, so it was a good competition for the club. It is also the last silverware the club has lifted at first-team level.
Date: March 9, 2019
Result: Wisbech St Mary’s 0-15 Lakenheath
Why memorable: We have had a lot of excellent results at Lakenheath over the past 18 months; away wins at Harleston, Mulbarton, March, a demolition of eventual champions Swaffham last year but the Wisbech (Thurlow Nunn League First Division North) game was one of the strangest I’ve ever been involved with and wrote the club into the record books.
We came in at half-time 6-0 ahead and I simply asked the players to go out and be ruthless and we were.
In all honesty the Wisbech keepers’ (they bought a sub on after 70 minutes) both made some excellent saves otherwise the scoreline could have been 20-plus.
Shaun Avis and Kelvin Enaro both scored five each in a match that culminated in the highest ever away win in more than 80 years of the Eastern Counties League.
Date: November 17, 2012
Result: Haverhill Sports Association 2-1 Dereham Town
Why memorable: An unbelievable day, as a Step 7 side we were huge underdogs for this FA Vase Second Round game playing against a side that eventually won promotion to the Ryman (Isthmian) League at the end of the season.
We had already had two incredible wins in the competition knocking out Norwich United and Ipswich Wanderers before eventually losing out to the Sussex League champions in the last 32, but this one topped the lot.
The side we had was essentially all Haverhill boys, on no money who all had a point to prove and the team spirit was unbelievable.
We were lucky that the likes of Matt Clarke and Ant Fernandez travelled back from work in Manchester and university in Newcastle for the Vase games which added some extra quality to the squad.
The game itself was tense, Dereham had a lot of the ball but Liam Cutts made a superb save to keep the scores level in the first half.
We went ahead around the hour mark when Harry Halls scored a penalty after a handball in the box and the game then came to life.
Within a couple of minutes a Dereham sub was sent off for a late tackle. This seemed to spur them on and soon after drew level before pushing for the win.
We managed to ride out the storm and went on the offensive, Matt Clarke spurning a wonderful chance to win it with a header right on 90 minutes. And it seemed as though we would be headed to Dereham for a replay.
However, with virtually the last attack of the game a cross from the left was met by Clarke who smashed home a close-range volley to claim a huge scalp.
Catch up on the series so far:
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More by this authorRussell Claydon