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Newmarket Town promoted to Pitching In Isthmian League North Division after victory over Mulbarton Wanderers

Newmarket Town achieved promotion to Step 4 of the non-league pyramid for the first time in their history after two goals in first half stoppage time were enough to secure a 2-0 victory over visiting Mulbarton Wanderers.

Both strikes came in the space of two minutes which helped the Jockeys win the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division Play-Off Final – that was long in the making – and book their place in the Pitching In Isthmian League North Division next season.

Ali Conway, who scored a brace in the Newmarket’s 3-1 semi-final win over Dereham Town on April 27, gave Michael Shinn’s side lift off with a left-footed drive that found its way into the bottom-right corner, before Jordan Foster quickly doubled their advantage with a delightful dink over goalkeeper Tom Wright.

Newmarket Town have been promoted to Step 4 for the first time. Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket Town have been promoted to Step 4 for the first time. Picture: Mark Westley

Mulbarton, who finished third in the Premier Division table, created few chances in reply. The closest they came was Tom Baird’s curling effort from the left corner of the six-yard box, five minutes after half-time, that flew over the bar.

It has been an unsettling few weeks for the Jockeys, who were scheduled to face Thetford Town in the final on May 4, as they were left waiting to hear when they would get a chance to play for promotion.

The Brecklanders were expelled from the competition for fielding a banned player, Josh Wells, in their semi-final win against Mulbarton. The defender was meant to be serving the second match of a five-game ban that he received while playing for Newmarket in February before his move to Matt Morton’s side in March.

Newmarket Town celebrate promotion. Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket Town celebrate promotion. Picture: Mark Westley

Thetford successfully appealed the decision to remove them with the FA, on the grounds they were not aware of the ban. They were reinstated in the competition and had to replay their semi-final at Mulbarton on Tuesday, which saw them lose 2-1.

And it was only announced on Thursday evening that the final would go ahead on Saturday. The Jockeys – who finished runners up to Mildenhall Town – wanted to get the game played, so cancelled an end-of-season trip to Liverpool that they were meant to enjoy this weekend – which they lost more than £1,500 in travel and accommodation for.

The fixture also looked like it came too soon for Ben Robinson, but he cut short a holiday with his family in Majorca to play at the Tristel Stadium – and what a decision that proved to be.

With the inclusion of the midfielder, Jockeys boss Shinn showed just one change from their semi-final victory, as Isaac Maynard replaced Oscar Dean, who dropped out of matchday squad entirely.

Newmarket Town with their promotion-winning medals. Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket Town with their promotion-winning medals. Picture: Mark Westley

As for the visitors, joint Mulbarton managers Ben Thompson and Danny Self named one change to the starting line-up that defeated Thetford Town in their re-arranged semi-final on Tuesday night. Goalscorer Ashley Jarvis dropped out of the squad and was replaced by Josh Pond.

Dominic Doggett also missed out on the trip while Noah Hunt, Scott Foreman and Emmanuel Machaya were drafted onto the bench.

The opening 10 minutes yielded few opportunities but James Young – Newmarket’s Players’ Player of the Season – was alert after a quarter of an hour played, when he excellently tipped over Owen Lane’s bullet header from a Baird free kick.

Ali Conway scored Newmarket’s opening goal of the game. Picture: Mark Westley
Ali Conway scored Newmarket’s opening goal of the game. Picture: Mark Westley

The visitors started to find their groove and starved the Jockeys of the ball. Lane again had a sight at goal, this time with a low drive from the edge of the area that failed to trouble Young, as the ball trickled into the goalkeeper’s palms.

But the best chance of the first period fell to Newmarket. A well-weighted pass sent Josh Lee baring down on goal, who escaped the touch-tight Mulbarton centre-back pairing, and one on one with the goalkeeper. The striker was denied by Tom Wright, whose save cannoned back off one of his own defenders before the ball trickled wide of the far post.

Five minutes before the break, the majority of the Tristel Stadium were screaming for a penalty. A dangerous corner from Ryan Cole caused a melee in the area in which the Newmarket faithful felt the ball had struck the hand of a visiting defender. Referee unmoved, and play halted for an injury to Wright.

Newmarket Town celebrate promotion. Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket Town celebrate promotion. Picture: Mark Westley

The delay triggered six minutes injury time at the end of the first half, in which the Jockeys turned the screw and put Mulbarton to the sword with two goals in two minutes.

The first came as Manager’s Player of the Season Conway broke free on the left and caught everyone off guard with an unorthodox low left-footed drive that nestled into the far corner. Wasting no time settling on a one-goal lead, Foster then scampered into a similar position before he curled a cultured dink beyond a stranded Wright to swiftly double Newmarket’s advantage.

A contest that was fairly even up until the break of the deadlock, but two mightily huge goals for Shinn’s side that changed the landscape of the tie completely.

The visitors had to go gung ho to get back in the contest and almost halved the deficit five minutes after the restart. The ball dropped to Baird on the left corner of the six-yard box but he failed to bend his curling effort on target.

And while Mulbarton pushed for a goal back, the hosts tried to plug the gaps that eventually appeared. Andrew Ballester tried his luck with an effort from range, that substitute goalkeeper Scott Foreman held, before Conway eyed up his second of the match, but his strike from the edge of the box blazed over the bar.

Lee got a lot of joy running the channels in attempts to mount an attack for a third goal, and he again found himself one on one with 20 minutes remaining – but his effort from inside the box was straight at Foreman.

There was a heart-in-mouth scare for the Jockeys on 80 minutes when Jake Eady’s headed back-pass looked to have sold Young short but, with Ben Thompson baring down on goal, the Newmarket goalkeeper came out and headed away the danger.

The visitors applied late pressure with a few shots from inside the box that were well blocked but, the Jockeys remained composed and secured their spot in the Isthmian League North for next season.

Newmarket Town: Young, Ballester, Eady, Walter, Williams (cpt), Robinson, Foster (Chivers), Maynard (Seymour 46’), Lee (Mingay 90’), Conway, Cole.

Unused substitutes: Gardner, Frank.

Mulbarton Wanderers: Wright (Foreman 46’), Smith, Hunter, Page (cpt), Easton, Wenn, Lane, Jones (Machaya 71’), Thompson, Baird (Lambert 71’), Pond (Hunt 69’).

Unused substitutes: Self, Altay.

Suffolk News Man of the Match: Josh Lee – Ran the channels well to relieve Newmarket of pressure and create attacks for the home side. Unlucky not go get on the scoresheet.