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Mildenhall Town player-boss Phil Weavers proud of defensive record that spearheaded charge towards Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title





It was Sir Alex Ferguson that once uttered the famous phrase ‘attack wins you games, defence wins you titles’.

It is a viewpoint that Mildenhall Town have certainly vindicated after they wrapped up top spot in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division and promotion to Step 4 over the Easter period with plenty left to spare.

A 2-0 home win over Woodbridge Town on Saturday was followed 48 hours later by a 1-0 triumph at Lakenheath, handing Phil Weavers’ men an unassailable advantage at the summit with four fixtures remaining.

Mildenhall Town celebrate winning the league at Lakenheath. Picture: William Malone
Mildenhall Town celebrate winning the league at Lakenheath. Picture: William Malone

And it was fitting that Mildenhall wrapped it up with back-to-back clean sheets, taking their tally of league shut-outs to 19 in the process (23 in all competitions).

They have conceded a measly 14 goals in 32 league games, shipping just four of those on their travels. After Monday’s triumph at Lakenheath the Mildenhall net has been breached only once in the previous 630 minutes of football, and just four times since the turn of the year – during which time they are unbeaten, racking up a total of 30 points from a possible 36.

Those are all numbers that would almost certainly impress a certain Mr Ferguson – and they are also the source of great pride for player-boss Weavers, who has made 30 appearances this term.

Mildenhall manager Phil Weavers. Picture: Mark Westley
Mildenhall manager Phil Weavers. Picture: Mark Westley

“In some ways we stumbled on it (being so tight defensively),” said Weavers. “My intention was and always is for us to be an exciting team to watch and I think we have been.

“I don’t see us an defensive team. We’ve got two full-backs that get forward and two centre-halves that are a real danger in both boxes.

“We’re always positive and we can win games of football in different ways. If you look at some of the lads we signed in the summer – Olly Hughes, Jarid Robson, Jon Kaye and Callum Anderson to name just four – these are quality players but they’re also renowned for their work-rate. And then when you add to the lads we already had like Tanner Call and Alex Steed, these are lads that never stop.

“We defend from the front and we defend as a unit. We’ve worked hard at it and in a lot of ways we’ve been able to perfect the simple things.

Mildenhall Town have conceded just 14 goals so far in the league this season. Picture: Mark Westley
Mildenhall Town have conceded just 14 goals so far in the league this season. Picture: Mark Westley

“Popey (Josh Pope, goalkeeper), Butch (Luke Butcher, captain) and all of the other defenders deserve a lot of credit, but it’s been a collective effort and I’m proud of everyone. It’s a record that’s won us the league.”

Expectations – both inside the club and from the outside – were high before a ball had even been kicked in anger. Weavers had a successful summer of recruitment, bringing in players with higher-league experience.

But with those arrivals came pressure, and many observers quickly made Mildenhall the clear favourites to win the title for the second time in their history.

And while they ultimately lived up to that billing, Weavers believes that his players still deserve plenty of praise.

Olly Hughes celebrates with Tanner Call after scoring against Woodbridge at the weekend. Picture: Mark Westley
Olly Hughes celebrates with Tanner Call after scoring against Woodbridge at the weekend. Picture: Mark Westley

He added: “We’ve been excellent all season. We won our first 10 games and it just snowballed from there.

“The league table doesn’t lie – we’ve been the dominant side in the division.

“But we’ve worked so hard for it. We had a great summer in terms of signings – it went better than I could have hoped for.

“It’s all about standards and we have had high ones. People will have looked at our squad and expected a lot, but you still have to deliver it.”

Although very keen to highlight the impact made by the entire squad, Weavers is particularly pleased for two players.

“There is not one single member of the squad that hasn’t contributed,” he said. “Even those coming off the bench or sometimes not getting on, they’ve all played a massive part.

“But I’m especially proud that Olly Hughes and Alex Steed will be able to have winners’ medals around their necks.

“Those two have been so loyal to me all season. For Olly, it vindicates his decision to join us in the summer because he had his pick of clubs. And Steedy has been an amazing servant for the club.

“Maybe they haven’t won as many trophies as their quality deserves, so this will go some way to putting that right.”

Before Mildenhall are able to get their hands on the trophy, they have to negotiate their way through trips to Woodbridge Town (on Saturday 3pm), Harleston Town (on Tuesday 7.45pm) and Kirkley & Pakefield before hosting Dereham Town on the final day.

Yet despite it being a case of job done, Weavers is not expecting his side to let up.

“Like any team, we’ve got our own targets that we keep behind closed doors,” said Weavers.

“Our objective was to win the league and obviously we achieved that, but we’ve not finished everything we set ourselves. And we’ve got the defensive record to protect.

“We also respect the opposition we’re playing against and it wouldn’t be right to chuck the towel in. It might feel a little strange to begin with to kit up again when we’ve celebrated reaching our big goal, but there’s too much pride in our dressing room to take our foot off the gas.”