THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Kirkley and Pakefield 4
Hadleigh United 3
Promising goalkeeper Dan Heath is set to leave Hadleigh United to pursue his dream of following his grandfather into the Football League.
The Brettsiders’ supporter’s player-of-the-year’s contract is up in May and he has the backing of the club, who lost a seven-goal thriller to Kirkley and Pakefield on Saturday, to seek a higher level of football.
He now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Cambridge United goalkeeping legend Rodney Slack to make a similar meteoric rise from non-League to League football.
“I have been in the form of my life since coming back from Leiston and all I have got to do now is keep playing well from now until the end of the season,” said the 22-year-old, who spent a confidence-building two months on loan in the Ryman Premier Division from late January, following what he admits had been sparked by a disagreement with manager Stuart Crawford.
“My grandad Rodney Slack played for Cambridge United for nine years in the 1960s and 1970s and was supporters’ player-of-the-year four or five times and I would love to play for them, but you cannot do that unless you get the opportunity.”
Slack, one of the players who famously took the U’s from the Cambridgeshire League all the way to the Football League, has been a big influence on Heath, taking him to every game, along with his father Alan Heath.
“From that experience at Leiston I came back a better goalkeeper,” Heath said. “Although I was quite young, I know for a fact I can play at that level.
“I want to be a professional footballer, but in life that cannot always happen — it will always be my ambition and hopefully I get that chance.”
Heath was picking the ball out of his net after only three minutes on Saturday when Scott Woodlock scored with a powerful angled shot before Ross King headed a second after 12 minutes.
While Ollie Canfer pounced to make it 2-1, the home side scored again through Kyle Baker’s penalty kick before Canfer struck once more after the break for 3-2.
Lee McGlone levelled the scores from Heath’s long clearance, but it was not to be Hadleigh’s day as Scott Chaplin hit the bar, with the subsequent counter-attack leading to Baker’s winner.
Newmarket-based goalkeeper Heath, who has been training twice a week with former Crewe Alexndra and Cambridge United goalkeeper Dean Greygoose, added he will forever be thankful to Crawford and everyone at Hadleigh United though.
“I have loved my time at Hadleigh,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity and I would like to think I have surprised a few people, and perhaps surprised myself.”
n James Blades scored a hat-trick for Hadleigh Reserves in a 4-1 home win against Woodbridge Reserves.