Hadleigh manager says title win repeat will be difficult

DRIVING FORWARD: Neil Calver, who has resigned for Hadleigh, on the ball in Saturday's friendly defeat to Needham Market
DRIVING FORWARD: Neil Calver, who has resigned for Hadleigh, on the ball in Saturday's friendly defeat to Needham Market
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An exodus of players has led Hadleigh United boss Stuart Crawford to play down their chances of retaining their Thurlow Nunn League title.

The Brettsiders will start their defence of their Premier Division crown at newly-promoted Fakenham Town on Saturday (3pm) with a lack of strikers after seeing Josh Mayhew (Witham Town), James Blades (Leiston), Ollie Canfer (relocated to Canterbury), and Tesfaye Bramble (retired) all leave.

But Crawford has managed to re-sign former Ipswich Town forward Richard Logan this week, who is not match fit, to play behind a striker.

Left-back Shane Wardley (Ipswich Wanderers) and midfielder Mark Maher (Stanway Rovers) have also exited.

Young goalkeeper Fred Howe has left, after the signing of 33-year-old Ben Nower from Norwich United, and right-back Kelsey Trotter has also gone.

Apart from Logan, only new signings Ben Deacon, who misses the first three games while away on holiday, and 32-year-old former Whitton frontman Gavin Crane, who has not been available for pre-season games after impressing in training, are registered senior strikers.

But Crawford was hoping to tie up a deal for former Bildeston hot shot David Lorimer, who had a spell at AFC Sudbury under Chris Tracey.

“Until we get the final third sorted we are just going to be filling holes,” admitted Crawford, who has been reunited with Ian Brown after he became first-team coach after leaving AFC Sudbury.

“Our squad up to the striker department is a good squad and if we correct that we will be in a good position.”

He looked at new midfielder Liam Scopes, from Woodbridge United, in the number nine role ahead of fellow signing Kevin Inglis, an experienced creative midfielder from Whitton United, in the first-half of Saturday’s 3-0 Hadleigh Charity Cup defeat to higher-league Needham Market on Saturday.

Duane Wright played the second half there, in a game watched by a good crowd of 179 with the match benefitting cancer charity the Woolverstone Wish Appeal at Ipswich Hospital.

But Crawford said achieving what they did last season will be a big ask.

“We will do our best but it is going to be difficult,” he said. “Other teams have strengthened and are in a better position financially.

“There is no targets from the club that we must be challenging.

“I think last year we over-achieved on the pitch.

“There is no pressure to be up there but we are in football to win and we want to retain the title if we can.”

He also revealed reports from within the club earlier in the summer that the players had been told promotion would be applied for if they were in a good position at Christmas were wide of the mark, with substantial investment off-the-field still a barrier.

“We are still miles away financially,” he said, saying they would need around an extra £20,000 from sponsorship deals by Christmas.

Hadleigh ended their pre-season matches on Tuesday with a 5-1 win at Stowmarket Town which saw triallist striker David Lorimer score twice with others from Scott Chaplin, Inglis and the now re-signed Matt Downing.

New left-back Ashley Sloots (holiday) also misses Saturday with Liam Jennings (suspended) and Ryan Stafford an injury doubt. New midfielder Aaron Churchyard, is set to be available.

Wivenhoe Town, who were given a relegation reprieve after finishing second-bottom last season, are the first opposition at the Millfield on Tuesday (7.45pm).