Hadleigh United boss Christian Appleford sees positives in FA Cup defeat to Mildenhall Town
Their interest in this season’s Emirates FA Cup may have lasted just 90 minutes, but Hadleigh United’s Christian Appleford believes there were positive signs during Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat to Mildenhall Town.
The hosting Brettsiders opened and concluded the scoring, but a quartet of goals from the visitors in between sealed their place in the preliminary round.
However, after a 2019/20 campaign of struggle towards the foot of the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division table, manager Appleford felt there was enough evidence in the performance to suggest a brighter season lies ahead.
“I don’t like losing. Last season was such a random season for me in that we lost far too many games for my liking,” he said.
“But you can lose in the right way and I think we have done that tonight.
“We are going to be fearless. We have got a lot of good, young attacking players who are very creative.
“We’ll score goals against anyone and that is going to be our mantra, whoever we are playing.
“Home or away, we are going to have a go at teams and I think we’ll surprise a few.
“I think we showed all that, even with three senior players (Matt Hayden, Kyle Cassell and Ben Elliott) all unavailable.
“We’ve got a good group here and we want to have that attacking mentality.”
There was just four minutes on the clock when the home team broke the deadlock. Josh Cheetham’s free kick from wide on the left flew over Danny Crump in the Mildenhall goal and cannoned against the upright. Thankfully for Hadleigh, Joel Glover was alert to the rebound and lashed in first time.
However, it was a short-lived lead as Mildenhall levelled things up in the 11th minute. Captain Luke Butcher’s first effort from Scott Chaplin’s corner was blocked, but it dropped straight back to the defender and he picked out the top corner with a half volley.
After that Mildenhall moved through the gears as the likes of Chaplin, James Hall and Tanner Call all sent efforts off target.
They finally got their noses in front in the 34th minute when Matt Green nodded Hall’s deep cross back across the face of goal and summer signing Call made no mistake with a close-range header.
It was 3-1 within three minutes as Chaplin, who was in the Hadleigh team the last time they beat Mildenhall in December 2015, fired in via a deflection and the underside of the crossbar.
However, just when it seemed it was going to be a routine night for Cornish’s men, the home side cut the deficit in the 43rd minute.
Mason Ransome’s free kick from just inside the Mildenhall half drifted over the visiting defence, leaving Gavin Van-Oene to head home unopposed at the back past.
As is often the case in games with goal-laden first halves, the second 45 minutes was nowhere near as eventful.
Mildenhall’s Phill Weavers had an early attempt from the edge of the box that was palmed to safety by Hadleigh’s number one Nick Punter, but aside from that it was largely a midfield battle.
Nevertheless, the away side eventually nabbed the crucial fourth goal 11 minutes from time as substitute Kaine Manels sent Hall in the clear. And while his initial effort was well stopped by Punter, the ball broke kindly for the Mildenhall frontman to roll in his 15th goal in just his 13th outing for the club.
Hadleigh midfielder Cheetham saw his flick from Ransome’s corner dribble inside the far post deep into stoppage time, but there was to be no grandstand finish because the referee blew for full time after Mildenhall had restarted play.
Appleford will now switch his focus to Saturday’s league opener at home to Kirkley & Pakefield (3pm), which is followed on Tuesday by a trip to Whitton United (7.45pm).
“We are not going to win the FA Cup obviously. You might go a couple of rounds, but ultimately we want to see what we can do in the league,” he said.
“We need to make a better start than last year – that is key.
“If we can get that, we’ll get the confidence going and who knows where that can take us.
“It will be a game by game thing but we are really looking forward to it.”
Hadleigh: Punter, Lawrence, Markis, Cheetham, Rose, Paine, Van-Oene (Ivatt 82’), Dinnell, Glover, Joe Yaxley (Jack Yaxley 86’), Ransome.
Free Press Man of the Match – Mason Ransome: Caused a number of problems down the left flank and sent some dangerous deliveries into the Mildenhall box.