Hadleigh United 3
by Russell Claydon
at the Millfield
HADLEIGH United manager Stuart Crawford was delighted to see his side record only their second clean sheet of the season against Walsham-le-Willows.
The Brettsiders moved up two places to 12th after they fired in three goals, two for Danny Allen and one for Ben Deacon, in a clinical 13-minute first half spell, which left their opponents with a mountain to climb.
Despite second bottom Walsham dominating possession in the second half, they were unable to find a way past keeper Dan Heath in the Hadleigh goal and his stubborn defence, with the shutout drawing praise from their manager.
“We have started to defend as a unit and in previous games we were very disjointed but we have focused on our shape and organisation,” said Crawford whose side have put the nightmare of losing 6-1 against Woodbridge in their last league outing at the Millfield firmly behind them after four straight wins in all competitions.
“I have drummed it into the boys big time since that Woodbridge defeat here and we are starting to learn and pick up and we look more solid.
“I am pleased we got a clean sheet and numbers are now coming back and we are starting to get stronger again.”
Hadleigh almost had the ball in the net inside 20 seconds, with Ben Deacon sending his volley straight at Duncan McAnally before the Walsham keeper did well to get a hand to Stuart Jopling’s close-range shot.
But the home side, who had rarely been threatened at the other end, did open the scoring on the break after a quarter of an hour. Lee Sim sent Luke Ingram’s cross into the patch of the on-running Danny Allen, who buried his low left-foot shot into the bottom right corner.
Five minutes later, in a carbon-copy of the first finish, Allen beat Sims for pace from Jopling’s ball over the top following a Walsham corner and the left-winger again drove his shot into the same spot.
Walsham’s Jack Brame sent a chipped shot over the bar before Hadleigh hit their third, again from a shot across goal from the left side of the penalty area. This time, Jon Lambert gifted possession to Jopling and his precise chipped pass was chested and volleyed by Deacon beyond McAnally.
Deacon had two other efforts with the shell-shocked visitors managed to fashion several chances of their own up to the break but did not trouble Heath.
A scrappy second half belonged to Walsham, with Hadleigh unable to keep hold of the ball. But despite a succession of chances and plenty of possession, the visitors were unable to get on the scoresheet with Heath parrying two James Churchill efforts and pushing away a Craig Skipp free-kick and Sam Diaper’s defelcted shot.
Jopling, moved to central defence for the last 45 minutes in place of substituted Liam Jennings, had the best of Hadleigh’s few second half chances late on but scooped his right-foot shot over the bar.
Hadleigh: Heath, McLaughlin, Cawley, Steward, Jennings (Banya 45), Rose, Ingram (Garrett 68), Canfer, Jopling, Deacon, Allen. Unused subs: Heffer-Thorne, French.
Free Press man of the match: Stuart Joplin – veteran set up two goals before giving a superb second half performance as an emergency defender.