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MATCH REPORT: Hadleigh get out of jail with stoppage-time equaliser

FOUR-GOAL THRILLER: The Hadleigh penalty box comes under pressure during their 2-2 draw with bottom side Swaffham Town Pictures: Mark Bullimore
FOUR-GOAL THRILLER: The Hadleigh penalty box comes under pressure during their 2-2 draw with bottom side Swaffham Town Pictures: Mark Bullimore


Kyle Cassell's two goals in three of the last four minutes - including one which clearly hit his hand - saw Hadleigh rob their opponents of what would have been a thoroughly deserved first win in seven.

ON THE RUN: Sam Sharp tries to get the ball up the wing
ON THE RUN: Sam Sharp tries to get the ball up the wing

They say that when you're at the bottom the luck doesn't fall your way, and that was certainly the case in a proverbial relegation 'six-pointer' at The Millfield on Saturday afternoon.

Hadleigh went into the game in the bottom three but knowing they could have moved 14 points clear of their rock bottom opponents Swaffham with a victory.

While The Peddlars had lost their last six, Hadleigh were looking for their first win in four attempts, having drawn at Godmanchester Rovers (2-2) before defeats against Newmarket Town (2-0) and Saffron Walden Town (1-0).

It had felt an age ago since their last home win, a 6-1 thrashing of Long Melford on December 27.

FEET UP: Tom Driscoll risks a dangerous tackle on Swaffham captain Michael Thompson
FEET UP: Tom Driscoll risks a dangerous tackle on Swaffham captain Michael Thompson

But the Brettsiders looked in good shape to record their first win on home soil in 2017 early on.

Just six minutes in Cassell robbed left-back Jake Pattern and put in a great low cross for Sam Sharp, who should have at least hit the target, but steered it wide.

The hosts were in behind the Peddlars' defence again two minutes later but Luke Gilvray's shot on the turn was parried back to him. And from his second goalbound attempt covering full-back Luke Reed blocked with his head.

Swaffham continued to look vulnerable at the back and Reed had his own goalkeeper to thank for clawing his header out, following Cassell nodding across goal from Sharp's delivery.

It was 23 minutes in before the visitors remotely threatened, James Gaffer getting across well to block Vincent's powerful angled shot.

It was the diminutive striker who broke the deadlock, very much against the run of play, four minutes later.

Hadleigh's Brandon Lewis was guilty of allowing an attacking free-kick in Swaffham's half to spark a dangerous counter-attack with a poor touch from the delivery by full-back Brandon Lewis from the delivery rescued by goalkeeper Sam Mansfield rushing off his line to clear.

But the hosts switched off at the resulting throw-in on half-way, allowing Matthew Blackford to find Vincent unmarked in a central area, and he had time and space to drive forward into the area before firing a low left-footed shot past Sam Mansfield.

The goal left Hadleigh shellshocked and provided the confidence-boost the basement dwellers clearly needed.

Suddenly it was Swaffham peppering their opponents' goalmouth; Mark Allibone turning Ben Elliott exquisitely on the edge of the box before scuffing his shot before Vincent had time and space again to slice a half volley wide from the edge of the area, following another throw-in.

Tom Driscoll planted a header wide of the far post from a free-kick before the same player headed straight into Dan Gentry's arms in the Swaffham goal as the hosts attempted to regain control.

But Hadleigh went into the break furious at not being given the chance to level from the penalty spot after Gilvray appeared to have been taken out by James Thompson when both chased a throughball into the area.

With the visitor's number six the last man, referee Adrian Sannerude's lack of intervention was a big decision which had gone in their favour.

Hadleigh began the second half with Sharp firing wide from range, but soon found themselves unable to put another significant attack together as their opponents continued to probe for a second goal against what looked a very vunerable defence.

Mansfield was called into action to push Blackford's near-post shot around his post, while the hosts looked unable to deal with long balls over the top as Gaffer's toe-poke on one was only stopped from going into his own net by his goalkeeper back pedalling to claw out.

The second goal Swaffham threatened arrived in the 63rd minute as a result of some more poor defending.

Blackford was able to intersect the lines with an angled throughball which found Vincent in space outside the area and Lewis' rushed attempt at a tackle only served to put him clear before he swept in.

Allibone should have made it three a few minutes later but somehow steered a great cross wide, while Gaffer got lucky after swinging his boot at Vincent's shot when facing his own goal, sending it flying over his crossbar.

Hadleigh boss Stuart Alston had clearly seen enough by the 70th minutes, throwing on three substitutes at once with Teekay Phadagi, James Ross and Damon Artiss replacing full-backs Lewis, Ryan Dennington and wideman Sharp.

It did not seem to have the impact that was required though as, with nine minutes of normal time to go, Swaffham should have put the game out of sight. Blackford was only able to stab Reed's great deep cross wide though.

Hadleigh finally had another shot - only their second of the half - in the 84th minute, but Ross' ambitious effort from out on the left was comfortably caught at the near post by Gentry.

Swaffham continued to look dangerous though and Mansfield did well to close to block Vincent's shot as he went for his hat-trick.

It looked like no more than a consoltation when Cassell's header back across goal from Ross' left-wing delivery pulled it back to 2-1 in the 90th minute.

But the unlikely comeback was completed in the third minute of stoppage time in controversial circumstances as Cassell was played in and, after the ball bounced up off the turf and hit his raised arm, his first shot was parried back out by Gentry before the attacker reacted quickest with a looping header that dropped in.

It sparked wild scenes among the home contingent, while the away players immediately ran towards the referee pointing to their arms.

But there was still further drama to follow as Swaffham's Vincent sent a free-kick flying through a crowded box before it clunked off the foot of the left-hand post.

It was certainly not their day and if the third-from-bottom relegation spot is decided by a single point, this will be the afternoon Hadleigh look back on as the one in which they played their get out of jail free card.

HADLEIGH: Mansfield, Lewis (Artiss, 70), Dennington (Ross, 70), Barwick, Elliott (c), Gaffer, Cassell, Driscoll, Gilvray, Crisp, Sharp (Phadagi, 70). Unsed subs: Lambert, Bilner,

Free Press Man of The Match: Kyle Cassell. Always looked the most dangerous Hadleigh outlet and made Swaffham's profligacy pay at the death to claim an unlikely point, with his two goals taking his season tally into double figures (10).

Attendance: 94

* For reaction from Hadleigh manager Stuart Alston and a preview to Friday evening's home encounter with Ipswich Wanderers, see Thursday's Suffolk Free Press print edition.

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