Christian Appleford celebrates victory in first game in charge at Hadleigh United over bottom side Framlingham Town
Scrabbling around for a goalkeeper solution on Saturday morning for a key game, Christian Appleford could never have dreamed he would be celebrating a six-goal winning margin in his first game in charge of Hadleigh United.
But that is the script that unfolded on his return to front-line management as the Brettsiders thrashed Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division basement dwellers Framlingham Town 7-1 to ease their relegation fears.
And while enjoying the moment, Appleford is keen to focus the side ahead of a big week which will see another relegation ‘six-pointer’, at home to Great Yarmouth Town on Saturday (3pm), followed by the unchartered waters of a Suffolk Premier Cup tie at higher-league Felixstowe & Walton United on Tuesday (7.45pm).
“One of the messages I said to the lads after the game on Saturday is that they’ve got to stay grounded and remember what our objective is,” he said.
“It is important to enjoy the win and no matter what level you play at scoring seven goals is an achievement to be proud of.
“But we need to remain focused and not get too down when the defeats come.
“I certainly think we will win more points than we will lose between now and the end of the season though.”
With a chance to create history in the Suffolk Premier Cup and be just 90 minutes away from a Portman Road final or pull even further clear of Great Yarmouth Town from the second relegation spot, Appleford is clear which he would choose.
“It’s a good week and one I am looking forward to with the Saturday game the important thing, first and foremost,” he said.
“They (Great Yarmouth) had a good result against Brantham (1-1 draw Saturday) and if we win it allows us to jump up a few places and start to open up a healthy gap with our target of survival. It would also put us on a nice little run going into the Premier Cup tie.
“It is hard to say about that one as we do not know whether they will be at full strength and I will have a few missing myself.
“I hate cliches in football but it is just one game at a time for us at the moment.”
A call from goalkeeper Nick Punter on Saturday morning about being ill certainly thrust Appleford back into the crazy world of non-league management as he even deliberated whether he could rush through a loan transfer from a Bostik League club, after learning every specialist at the club was not available.
But coach Scott Lawrence, who is normally involved in warming up the goalkeeper, answered the call to step into the breach.
“He used to play as a goalkeeper as a youth and then played out field,” explained Appleford.
But having admitted sending his side out with the explicit instructions of stopping Lawrence from being called into much action, a Keiron Andrews goal after 27 minutes proved to be a platform for a goal-spree in the second half.
The scoreline went from 1-0 to 6-0 in 25 minutes after the restart with midfielder Tom Driscoll being allowed to take over penalty taking duties from Romario Dunne to complete a 17-minute hat-trick, his first for the club.
The first half was a somewhat drab affair as both teams took time to settle on a slippery surface not aided by a bitterly cold wind.
The opening minutes saw both sides testing each other, with Hadleigh’s coach Scott Lawrence making a fine save on 14 minutes from a Matt Aldis header.
Hadleigh took the lead shortly before the half hour mark when a Romario Dunne through-ball to Driscoll saw his flick-on set up Andrews to fire home to give Hadleigh a slender half time lead.
The second half saw a different affair as Hadleigh upped their game with Driscoll firing in on 53 minutes before Kieran Turner found the net six minutes later with a long-range effort.
The goals continued to fly in for the visitors though as Driscoll made it 4-0 four minutes later with a header from a Turner corner.
The Castlemen were now heavily on the back foot as Hadleigh pressed and after Dunne was brought down in the area, he stepped aside to graciously hand the ball to Driscoll so he could score his hat-trick with a low placed drive.
The 74th minute saw Kyle Cassell race clear to fire in number six before Framlingham pulled a goal back on 79 minutes when a Mason Ransome free-kick found James Mayhew whose touch on to Anthony Johnson saw him slot home.
But from the restart Turner latched on to a poor Johnson clearance to fire in Hadleigh’s seventh.
Framlingham scored a late goal when Johnson netted with an angled shot.
But it could not detract from a wonderful day for the Brettsiders at the start of a new era. A third straight win sees them increase the gap to the relegation zone from two to four points and move up two places to 16th.