Long Melford squad featuring 14 new signings under David Hennessey out to repeat FA Cup shock at Kempston Rovers
Long Melford will be aiming to repeat recent history in the Emirates FA Cup against higher-league Kempston Rovers this weekend, but that will only resonate with a handful of their current squad.
A summer overhaul at Stoneylands has seen new manager David Hennessey, who stepped up from the reserves to replace long-serving Jamies Bradbury, recruit no less than 14 new faces.
In fact, of the match-day squad that impressively came away from Fakenham Town with all three points in their league opener on Saturday (see page 39), only two were involved in knocking Saturday’s opponents out less than two years ago.
“The plan was to add five or six but we hadn’t expected to lose as many as we have so when that became clear we had to then replace those outgoing players as well. It has been quite the transition,” said Hennessey, who saw the spine of his outfield side retire in talismanic forward Jamie Griffiths, as well as club captain Steve Adams and full-back Dan Swain along with goalkeeper Matt Walker (Brantham Athletic) moving on.
“It’s a new team and a new infrastructure building it up from the ground upwards, so to speak.
“It’s been an interesting couple of months but the fruits of our labour are starting to pay off.”
The 3-1 victory at a Fakenham side that finished in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division’s top six last season came despite Hennessey having to put defender Deklyn Roy in goal for most of the second half.
Walker’s replacement David Leader, who includes Heybridge Swifts and FC Clacton among his former clubs, had to go off following a heavy clash, having banged heads with team-mate Tyrese Williams, forcing the latter to lose consciousness, during the first half.
“We were 2-0 up at half-time (Brown, Ally) and looking fairly comfortable. That was despite our right-back coming off after half-an-hour with concussion after a clash of heads with the ‘keeper,” said Hennessey, whose side are hosting Hadleigh United tonight (7.45pm), after the Suffolk Free Press went to print.
“Then the ‘keeper went off 10 minutes into the second half after another clash.
“Our centre-half then had to go in goal and that was when they scored and even that was an own goal.
“I don’t think our centre-half even had a save to make in the second half.
“It was a huge result on Saturday and the boys deserve all the credit.”
Although there was a lot of new faces in his side, one of the new signings was a familiar one in centre-back Josh Collins. And Leader himself had previously played for the club as an emergency deputy for Darren Moyes.
One of the most eye-catching of Hennessey’s signings, who include a good number of players who have been playing at a lower level, is that of striker Jack Brame. The experienced frontman includes Bury Town, Walsham-le-Willows, Mildenhall Town and Thetford Town among his former clubs but was not available for Saturday’s opener.
At the same time there was no Sam Mills (Hadleigh United), Ben Judge (Whitton United) or last season's top goalscorer George Day (Cornard United) with the trio having all departed.
Following tonight’s game with Hadleigh, Melford turn their attentions to the FA Cup where they will be firm underdogs at Southern League Division One Central outfit Kempston Rovers on Saturday.
But club officials and especially new club captain Jacob Brown, one of those two aforementioned players along with Jake Jackson, will travel with the memory of defeating them 4-2 on penalities, following a goalless home draw, in September 2020.
“Obviously we would love to put together a run,” said Hennessey of his first FA Cup game as manager.
“It is a bit of a free hit for us because obviously they are a Step 4 side. Everyone will be expecting them to take the win so we can go out there and express ourselves, playing with a bit of freedom.
“For some of the boys it will be their first taste of FA Cup football and obviously we would love to come back with the win or take them back to our place on Wednesday.
“However, our focus has to be on the league and making sure that we perform better than we did last year so we won’t let it become a distraction but we will make sure we enjoy it and get as much from it as we can.”
On their league aspirations he said: “First and foremost the target is to stay in the division and not have the situation where we are having to rely on reprieves or anything else.
“But we want to kick on from that and improve on that to finish as high as we can.
“We are under no illusions that we can’t compete financially with a lot of the clubs in our division but what we do have is grit, determination and desire as we showed on Saturday to make sure we are competitive.”
Long Melford signings:
- Kalum Benham, defender (Bildeston, Bacton)
- Bruno Binda, defender (Claydon)
- Jack Brame, forward (Bury, Walsham, Mildenhall, Thetford)
- Josh Collins, defender (Cornard, Debenham, Felixstowe)
- Frederico Dende, midfielder (Stowmarket)
- Jordan Gibbs, midfielder (Diss)
- Ben Humphreys, forward (Elmswell, Bildeston)
- David Leader, goalkeeper (Braintree, Heybridge Swifts, Clacton, Basildon)
- Tapi Mabugu, midfielder (Alresford)
- Sam Newton, defender (Cornard)
- Godswill Odili, defender (Tiptree Jobserve)
- Ricky Verdades, forward (Claydon)
- Harry Whiting-Noakes, midfielder (Old Newton)
- Max Williams, defender (Thetford)