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Non-League round-up: Haverhill Borough avoid finishing bottom while Stowmarket Town and Mildenhall Town lose ground in promotion races and Long Melford back in the relegation zone



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A late goal and a wrongly ruled out reply at Aveley last weekend had seen Stowmarket Town lose control of the Pitching In Isthmian League North Division title race.

But on Saturday – as it emerged the club had given up their place in the Suffolk Premier Cup final – they lost further ground on the Essex side, throwing away a two-goal lead at home to relegation-threatened Barking.

Things looked to be going well in front of a crowd of 274 at Greens Meadow when Josh Mayhew added to his two goals off-the-bench goals in Wednesday's county cup semi-final with the opener inside three minutes. Bremudan international Willie Clemons then made it 2-0 with his fifth goal in his last eight games just after the half-hour mark.

But the second half saw their lead wiped out with Barking replying through Kenedi Dariri in the 59th minute and then providing another blow to the Old Gold & Blacks' title hopes with Sam Shaban's equaliser three minutes from time.

With Aveley romping to a 5-1 win at Witham Town the gap to the summit for third-placed Stow is now eight points, though the Suffolk side do hold two games in hand. One of those comes at home tomorrow night against Maldon & Tiptree (full local midweek fixtures below) who kept their play-off hopes very much alive with an impressive 4-1 victory at second-placed Canvey Island.

It means a win tomorrow would see Stow go level with the The Gulls in second, though likely behind on goal difference.

A 3-2 win at Great Wakering Rovers has seen Felixstowe & Walton United keep their play-off hopes alive.

A pair of quickfire goals, from Ollie Canfer (30') and Armani Schaar (35'), had put them in control at the interval before Rovers pulled one back. But Zak Brown's 78th minute strike proved to be decisive, despite the hosts scoring again two minutes from time.

The eight-placed Seasiders are five points off fifth-placed Grays Athletic with five games to go, though they do hold a game in hand on two of the three sides above them.

AFC Sudbury (10th) went a fourth game without a win and slipped to back-to-back defeats following relegation-threatened Hullbridge Sports leaving The MEL Group Stadium with a 2-1 victory.

The Yellows took the lead 12 minutes in with Corey Davidson's second goal in seven games since joining the club.

But Sports scored either side of the break through Freddie Hockey (31') and George Smith (54') to boost their survival hopes.

It was also a disappointing home game for Bury Town (11th) who lost 2-1 to play-off occupiers Brentwood Town in front of a crowd registered as 445 at The Atalian Servert Ram Meadow Stadium.

Joe Hood looks to win a header for Bury Town in the Brentwood box Picture: Mecha Morton
Joe Hood looks to win a header for Bury Town in the Brentwood box Picture: Mecha Morton

Defender Joe White (19') had responded to Tom Richardson's 11th minute opener but the same player restored his side's advantage 10 minutes before the break, with the Blues unable to reply in a goalless second half.

Across in the Pitching In Northern Premier League Midlands Division, second bottom Soham Town Rangers remain four points from Histon in the relegation/promotion play-off place with four games now to go after a 3-1 defeat at Sporting Khalsa.

Cemal Ramadan reacts to missing his shot during Bury Town's home loss to Brentwood Town Picture: Mecha Morton
Cemal Ramadan reacts to missing his shot during Bury Town's home loss to Brentwood Town Picture: Mecha Morton

Ollie Ward's goal on 57 minutes had got them back in the game at 2-1 but the hosts' Gurjit Singh scored his second of the game 10 minutes from time to restore their two-goal advantage.

Up a level in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central, there were no wins for the Suffolk trio. But Leiston's (7th) entertaining 3-3 draw at play-off occupiers AFC Rushden & Diamonds saw them extend their advantage over Needham Market (12th) to seven points in their bid to be the county's highest non-league finishers.

Jake Hutchings scored earlier in both halves with the hosts scoring twice in between, the second coming from the penalty spot. Diamonds soon made it 3-1 but Will Davies held his nerve from an 88th minute penalty to earn Darren Eadie's and Chris Wilder's side a point. It leave them 11 points behind their opponents with four games to go.

Correy Davidson puts AFC Sudbury ahead in what turned out to be a home defeat to Hullbridge Sports Picture: Steve Screech
Correy Davidson puts AFC Sudbury ahead in what turned out to be a home defeat to Hullbridge Sports Picture: Steve Screech

Despite thrashing Lowestoft Town 4-0 out at Bloomfields last Tuesday, it's three defeats in their last four for Kevin Horlock's Needham Market with Curtis Obeng's 74th minute goal earning relegation-threatened Nuneaton Borough a big three points. It came after Kyle Hammond (64') had replied to Charlie Dowd's 27th minute opener.

Down two levels in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, Mildenhall Town were not able to take advantage of leaders Wroxham dropping points. But of more concern was the gap to the potential second automatic promotion place, which could otherwise go into a play-off match, extending from three to five points.

It's now four games without a win for Ricky Cornish's Mildenhall side after playing out a goalless draw at home to the side just below them in the table, fourth-placed Mulbarton Wanderers.

Mid-table Woodbridge Town, with Luke Taylor on target, kept them six points behind Wroxham but having played a game more following the Yachtsmen's 1-1 draw at Nottcutts Park.

Sak Hassan came on as a second half substitute for AFC Sudbury on his return from international duty with Somalia, having gained his first caps and goials Picture: Steve Screech
Sak Hassan came on as a second half substitute for AFC Sudbury on his return from international duty with Somalia, having gained his first caps and goials Picture: Steve Screech

But Gorleston's 3-0 win at 14th-placed Hadleigh United made it a damaging weekend for their promotion hopes with The Greens also holding a game in hand over Hall for the run-in.

Down at the bottom, Long Melford find themselves back in the relegation zone following a 2-0 defeat at home to Fakenham Town coupled with Brantham Athletic sharing the spoils with a goalless draw at fellow relegation battlers Haverhill Rovers.

It means Melford, who had won at title-challengers Gorleston last weekend, now trail Brantham and Rovers by a point with a game in hand on both. That comes at 13th-placed Lakenheath tomorrow who will be bouyed by their 4-0 victory at basement side Swaffham Town. Tom Thulborn, Ryan Yallop and Shaun Avis were all on target for Ben Cowling's side, while youngster Connor Brand made his first-team debut.

Bury Town's Jake Chambers Shaw finds his attempted cross blocked Picture: Mecha Morton
Bury Town's Jake Chambers Shaw finds his attempted cross blocked Picture: Mecha Morton

Thetford Town gave their survival hopes a big boost by moving six points clear of the bottom two with a 2-1 victory at mid-table Newmarket Town.

Lewis Whitehead's 67th penalty had equalised Michael Campbell's early header before Nathan Clarke's close-range finish in the 87th minute following a corner sealed a big away victory.

An all-Suffolk affair saw Kirkley & Pakefield (7th) make it six wins on the bounce with a 3-1 scoreline over visiting Whitton United (15th). Kyle Haylock, Ben George and George Barber got their goals.

Friday evening's fixture had seen Ely City triumph 2-1 over a visiting Walsham-le-Willows side that ended with 10 men following the dismissal of their goalscorer Matty Collins. Tarren Moxon and Tom Williams scored for The Robins who ended the weekend in 12th while the Willows lie ninth.

In the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North, Harleston Town - without a fixture - saw their lead at the top cut to four points as Sheringham cashed in one of their three games in hand.

The Shannocks were 4-1 winners at Framlingham Town, who cling on to the fifth play-off place but with sixth-placed Whittlesey Athletic four points behind with two extra to play after their 4-4 draw at Huntingdon Town on Friday.

Debenham LC (13th) did enjoy a good home victory though, winning 4-1 against basement dwellers Wisbech St Mary. Danny Thrower's early deflected shot and Ryan Gardiner strike added to after the break by Sam Cole and Jay Cole (penalty).

Diss Town (12th) endured a fourth straight defeat – extending their winless run to 10 matches – with a 2-0 scoreline at Peterborough North End.

Second-bottom Needham Market Reserves went down to a 5-2 defeat at play-off occupiers Norwich CBS.

In the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South, it once looked unlikely but Haverhill Borough have guaranteed they will not finish bottom of the pile following a 1-0 victory at Park View. Brimsdown are now 10 points adrift of them with only three of their matches (9 points) left to play for.

Haverhill Borough, pictured before taking on visiting Buckhurst Hill last month, have guaranteed their safety at Step 6 with four games remaining Picture: Mecha Morton
Haverhill Borough, pictured before taking on visiting Buckhurst Hill last month, have guaranteed their safety at Step 6 with four games remaining Picture: Mecha Morton

Peter Betts' young side – who we announced last Monday will have Mark Pleasants in charge next season – have gone unbeaten in their last six matches, winning four of those to leave them fourth in the form table.

The all-important winning goal came late on from experienced full-back Jemel Fox.

Borough can actually rise above third-from-bottom Newbury Forest with a victory tomorrow, when they travel across to face them.

It all means Borough's chances of being relegated have significantly decreased, though their survival would likely not be able to be officially announced until the national picture is sorted out, around mid May.

The FA had announced a re-vamp of promotion and relegation ahead of the campaign where it outlined that 'up to three teams' in each Step 6 league would be 'eligible for relegation'. It would be dependent on whether there was an accepted team in its geographicle footprint available to come up and take their place.

Despite the potential for it, it is understood no teams have been relegated from the Eastern Counties League's (Thurlow Nunn League's) bottom division in the last 17 years, potentially longer. This does not include teams that have dropped out by choice.

But the most talk around the division is likely to have centred on the game that did not get played. Leaders Ipswich Wanderers were granted a postponement from going to title-challengers Buckhurst Hill on Saturday due to Covid cases on top of what they club described as 'a lengthy injury list'.

It has now been rearranged for a week on Tuesday with Wanderers currently holding a two-point lead with four games to play.

Third-placed Benfleet were beaten 1-0 at Halstead Town as Mark McLean's side got themselves back into the play-off places, albeit with sixth-placed Burnham Ramblers - who are three points adrift - holding two games in hand.

Gareth Thomas was sent off for the hosts earlier in the second half but Adam Hampson went on to score a long-range screamer in what proved to be the only goal of the game for the 10 men in front of a crowd of 212 at The Milbank Stadium. The Humbugs host their play-off rivals Ramblers in a game that is set to draw another bumper crowd this Saturday.

Cornard United (17th) ended a four game losing run with a 3-2 home victory over the side immediately below them, Newbury Forest, courtsey of a Scott Sloots hat-trick. Both sides finished the game with 10 men, with Alex Fuller given his marching orders for the hosts.

Elsewhere, hosting Holland beat AFC Sudbury Reserves 3-1, having led 2-1 at half-time against Danny Laws' 15th-placed side, for whom Luke Hipkin had been on target.

Midweek fixtures (kick-offs 7.45pm unless otherwise stated)

Tuesday, April 5

Pitching In Southern League Premier Central

Leiston vs Bromsgrove Sporting

Stratford Town vs Needham Market

Pitching In Isthmian League North Division

Stowmarket Town vs Maldon & Tiptree

Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division

Lakenheath vs Long Melford

Mildenhall Town vs Newmarket Town

Walsham-le-Willows vs Whitton United

Thurlow Nunn League First Division North

Needham Market Reserves vs Whittlesey Athletic

Thurlow Nunn League First Division South

AFC Sudbury Reserves vs Harwich & Parkeston

Newbury Forest vs Haverhill Borough