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Haverhill Rovers battle it out to secure first point of the new season

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Despite feeling bitterly disappointed to have not secured a win, Haverhill Rovers goalscorer Tom Stoker believes they can take plenty of heart from Tuesday’s 1-1 home draw against Godmanchester Rovers, writes Owen Mizon.

In an end-to-end encounter, hosting Rovers once again had to recover from an early set-back at The New Croft with Stoker’s header on the stroke of half-time seeing them claim their first point of the new season.

It came on the back of a disappointing opening weekend in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division as Marc Abott’s side went down to a 3-0 defeat at FC Clacton.

Tom Stoker scored Haverhill's goal on Tuesday evening. Picture: Mecha Morton
Tom Stoker scored Haverhill's goal on Tuesday evening. Picture: Mecha Morton

Although the hosts were cut open early on Tuesday evening, good character was on display to garner the momentum to grab a goal back and press for a winner in a game which proved to be extremely entertaining.

But once an expertly-guided header from Tom Stoker before the interval trickled its way into the back of the net, the home side stamped some authority in the match and applied plenty of pressure.

Stoker said: “The goal really changed the momentum of the team, we looked even more up for it and started to apply further pressure.

“For the first 35 minutes of the second half we spent plenty of time in their half and attacked very well, especially with Rory Jebb up front, holding it up well. He’s a great player to play alongside.

“Benno (Ben Bradley) and Joe Rider complimented each other fantastically in the middle.

“We kept going, we didn’t crumble and we didn’t let them play through us. We held on well for the point.”

It took just three minutes for Godmanchester to take the lead, when Matty Allan opened up Haverhill’s midfield and executed a defence-splitting pass which found its way to Jack Chandler who finished with aplomb into the far corner.

There was no real sniff at goal for Marc Abbott’s side in the early stages, their opponents enjoying more of the ball and creating several chances through set pieces.

The tide began to turn from the 20th minute though as tricky winger Aaron Hudson anticipated a neat run from Cambridge United Joanne Joe Rider who blazed wide.

Rovers goalkeeper James Philp was called into action moments later, saving well from Mike Hyem.

The game completely opened up on the brink of half-time. A long ball from Perry Moody found its way to Hudson, whose teasing cross Stoker to send a dipping header into the back of the net.

The home side started the second half as they meant to go on with Rider and Ben Bradley proving real catalysts in the middle as they set wingers Ryan Gibbs and Hudson away several times.

Stoker’s athleticism and fierce shots proved menacing up top, as he was denied by a strong defensive header.

Seconds later, Lawrence Porter forced a great reaction save from Niall Conroy as the hosts enjoyed a dominant spell.

With a minute left of additional time, Godmanchester’s Matty Allan was left with acres of space on the left but scuffed his shot inches wide.

At the other end Philp had his work cut out in the dying embers of the game, remarkably keeping out a last-gasp opportunity.

The attention now turns to a tricky test on Saturday, where Abbott’s side host higher-league Wisbech Town in the FA Cup.

“Being the underdogs we’ll bring the game to them and should we perform like we did in the second half tonight and against Norwich United, we’ll give them a good game,” said Stoker.

Rovers: Philp, Porter, Oteng, Rider, Carroll (Olive 74’), Moody, Hudson, Bradley, Jebb, Stoker, Gibbs.

Echo Man of the Match – James Philp: Pulled off some exceptional saves before the break, which proved crucial. Dealt with the late flurry of Godmanchester pressure impeccably well too. Attendance: 126