Thurlow Nunn League Round-Up: Stowmarket claim title
With Diss Town losing at home to Coggeshall Town, Stowmarket Town got the points they needed to clinch the First Division title in front of their home fans on the final day of the Eastern Counties League 2016/17 season.
Rick Andrew's Stowmarket side had gone into their game with AFC Sudbury Reserves at Greens Meadow knowing they would require a point if Coggeshall Town collected a victory on their season-ending game at Diss Town in order to claim their first league title since 1951.
The nerves were soon settled by Duane Wright's opening goal and The Old Gold and Blacks, playing in front of a bumper crowd of 274, doubled their advantage via top scorer George Bugg, who hit his 19th of the campaign.
Goalkeeper Lewis Higgns ensured they had breathing space heading into the break by preserving their two-goal lead with a penalty save from Ollie Peters.
Over at Brewers Green Lane, Coggeshall Town, who had superstar backer Ollie Murs in the visiting dugout, were keeping the pressure up as they went into the interval with a 1-0 advantage over Diss, courtesy of Nnamdi Nwachuku's 42 goal of the season.
But Stowmarket Town's grip on the title never let up in the second half, with Wright, who had won the top tier with Hadleigh United a few years back, firing in a third goal to effectively kick off the celebrations at Greens Meadow.
With Coggeshall ending 2-0 winners at Diss, with Nwachuku hitting his 43rd goal of the season as they celebrated back-to-back promotions, Stow ended three points clear of the Essex side on 93 points, having only lost twice in 40 matches.
Haverhill Borough, whose season had ended early due to their potential participation in the Suffolk Senior Cup final, which is just 24 hours after the Thurlow Nunn League season ending at Portman Road tomorrow, took third spot and the final promotion place.
Diss Town finished sixth and 17 points adrift of the top three place they had been hellbent on achieving at the start of the campaign.
All that stands in Stowmarket's way of their first ever promotion now is upgrading their floodlights to a satisfactory standard, something their manager said last week he was confident would not be a problem, should the town council's recommendation of a £10,000 grant for the funding be carried forward by Mid Suffolk District Council.
The defeat left Danny Laws' AFC Sudbury Reserves finishing one place outside the bottom three, with Needham Market Reserves, who won 4-1 at home to March Town Reserves, finishing a place below them.
There is again expected to be no relegation from the First Division this season.
Elsewhere, Cornard United lost 3-2 at home to Holland FC to claim 15th, their highest finish in a number of years and Halstead Town ended in 9th after a 4-0 home defeat to Woodbridge Town. Debenham LC (12th) won 3-2 at home to Downham Town and Team Bury (17th) lost 5-0 at home to Wisbech St Mary.
The Premier Division final day had far less riding on it, with Mildenhall Town having already secured the title and Hadleigh United going into their game at home to Great Yarmouth Town knowing they were safe from relegation after Wivenhoe Town lost to Haverhill Rovers on Wednesday evening.
In the end, Hadleigh lost out in a seven-goal thriller 4-3 in front of a crowd of 169, while Haverhill Rovers (16th) lost 1-0 at Brantham Athletic (8th).
As for the champions though, they turned on the style in front of a bumper gate of 230 who had come to see them pick up the title, thrashing Wivenhoe Town, who finished third-from-bottom, 9-0.
Luke Butcher fired a hat-trick to earn the man-of-the-match award while there was a brace from Stephen Spriggs and Dan Brown, Luke Parkinson, Arran Mackay and an own goal accounted for the rest on what was a real parade to collect the silverware before embarking on a campaign in the Ryman Isthmian League next season.
Newmarket Town, who had had such an impressive campaign under Kevin Grainger on their new 3G artificial pitch to finish 3rd, lost 2-0 at 2nd place Felixstowe & Walton United.
Andrew Wood was on target once again as Walsham-le-Willows (14th) drew 1-1 at Fakenham Town and Ely City's successful first season (13th) in the Premier Division ended on a bum note with a 5-0 defeat at Gorleston (4th).
Long Melford (17th) had already secured their survival the previous weekend and ended their campaign with a 2-1 defeat at Kirkley & Pakefield.
* For reaction to the final day of the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, see Thursday and Friday's upcoming papers.