Newmarket Town forward Lewis Whitehead scores first goals since returning from long spell on the sidelines
By his own admission, Newmarket Town’s hat-trick hero Lewis Whitehead had struggled to see much light at the end of the tunnel during the last five months.
Despite seeking various medical advice and undergoing different types of treatment, a solution to his long-standing knee injury was proving to be elusive.
However, just when the striker felt like giving up hope, the enforced lengthy break has seemingly done the trick.
And in what was his fifth appearance since getting back into Michael Shinn’s team, Whitehead helped himself to a trio of goals inside the opening 30 minutes of Saturday’s remarkable 10-2 rout of visiting Whitton United.
“The goals have been a long time coming and it feels like a relief more than anything else,” said Whitehead.
“It is a recurring injury and I had got to the point where I did not know what else I could do.
“I had been going to physios, having MRI scans, doing the stretching and icing but nothing was working.
“I was getting really worried that I was going to have to deal with the pain, if I came back at all.
“But thankfully the break has done me some good and so far, so good. It is a bit sore after games but I have to expect that.
“Because it is an issue with the patella being inflamed, it is probably always going to be the that way.
“It has been really tough at times, but the goals on Saturday make it all worthwhile.”
Ross Paterson actually went one better than Whitehead on Saturday with a four-goal haul, while Jordan Foster (2) and Jack Whiting also got in on the act.
It emphatically ended the Jockeys’ four-game losing run in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, with the gap to Norwich United in the second of two potential promotion places now eight points.
Reflecting on the big victory, Whitehead believes that the second-half performance during the 4-2 defeat to league-leading Stowmarket Town last time out played a key role.
“We had lost a few on the bounce, and although we lost to Stowmarket, the second half was a bit of a turning point,” he added.
“We were 3-0 down at half-time but in the second half we have given them a big scare. We scored twice and should have got something from the game in the end.
“What it did give us is some confidence and the belief that if we can play that way – and with that tempo – against Stowmarket, then we can do it against anyone in the league.
“That is what we saw against Whitton and if we can replicate that in our remaining games then we will win more than we lose.”
Following the postponement of the midweek trip to Godmanchester Rovers, attention turns first to Saturday’s trip to Swaffham Town (3pm), followed by a short journey down the A11 to Mildenhall Town (7.45pm).
Mildenhall have dominated this particular division in recent years, with the Jockeys having not beaten their rivals since September 2015 – a run of seven matches.
Whitehead has featured in a handful of those games, and he feels that Newmarket have been guilty of not taking their chances.
“We have been the better team in some of those games but you have got to be clinical,” he said.
“They might not be in the top four at the moment, but they have a top four squad and so any chance you get you need to take.
“They have James Hall up front and that is what he does. Getting the first goal could be vital. If we do that, confidence will grow and hopefully it will set us up for a long overdue win against them.”