THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: Hadleigh Untied 1 Haverhill Rovers 0
After pushing back Haverhill’s threat on their title charge, surpassing last year’s run in the FA Vase is next up on Stuart Crawford’s agenda.
With cup games giving them an enforced two-week break from the league, Duane Wright’s 72nd-minute header ensured Hadleigh United will remain clear top dogs by the time they travel to basement side Woodbridge Town on November 23.
Despite their challenge suffering from a hangover after their FA Vase quarter-final defeat at Tunbridge Wells last year, manager Crawford is keen to get his side chasing a new record run when they travel to familiar opponents in Oxhey Jets (3pm).
“The target is to try and improve on what we did last year,” he said. “It is going to be hard trying to compete for the league and do that as well, as we found out last year.
“But at the start of the season you want to do well in cups and win the league.”
Hadleigh beat the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division side 2-0 at The Millfield in the third round last season.
But Crawford has warned it will be a different challenge against the revamped mid-table side in Hertfordshire.
“I think they have had a big turnaround with players leaving and new people coming in and a new manager, so it is going to be difficult,” he said. “If you go away in the Vase, especially with a long journey like that, it is never going to be easy.
“But we are organised and strong defensively and we are full of confidence.”
Right-back Ryan Stafford limped off within 30 minutes on Saturday and is a doubt with a knee problem, while defender Mark Goldfinch is unavailable and striker James Blades and midfielders Matt Downing and Mark Maher are all big injury doubts.
The injury crisis led to veteran striker Sam Banya, who has been training with his old club, being named among the substitutes for third-placed Rovers’ visit with 16-year-old Tommy Newbiggin coming in for his first senior start.
The youngster almost made a dream impact when Scott Chaplin’s crossfield ball presented him with the best chance of the first half, but his shot was blocked well by Jamie Greygoose in stoppage time, coming after he had acrobatically tipped over headers from Josh Mayhew and Paul Donnelly early on.
The visitors, who had rarely threatened, were only denied the opener by Stuart Wardley heading off the line in a goalmouth scramble, but Hadleigh always looked the more likely, with Mayhew firing across the face of goal and Greygoose having to make a flying save from Scott Chaplin.
As Hadleigh prepared for a corner, Rovers’ Luke Parkinson’ was sent off for an off-the-ball shove at the other end of the field, with Wright then rising highest to nod in from Chaplin’s delivery.
Rovers’ frustration saw them pick up a number of bookings as Hadleigh comfortably saw out the game.
“It was massive for us really,” said Crawford. “I stressed to them how important it was to try and keep the others at bay and that will hurt them.”
Hadleigh: Howe, Stafford (Rose 28), Wardley, Calver, Goldfinch, DONNELLY, Newbiggin (Barwick 57), Jennings, Wright, Mayhew, Chaplin. Unused subs: Artiss, Sharp, Banya.