Saturday's local football round-up: Long Melford earn Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division survival as Halstead Town miss out on second spot and promotion
The last day of the seasons for the Evo-Stik League, Bostik League and Thurlow Nunn League saw just Long Melford and Halstead Town from within Iliffe Media East's paper's covered areas having anything tangible left to play for.
For Long Melford it was mission accomplished as their 3-1 at Thetford Town saw them guarantee another season in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, without taking into account second-from-bottom side Great Yarmouth Town's result.
Melford had gone into the unseasonably chilly last day of the season knowing they just needed to avoid defeat to survive, while only a loss coupled with a win for Great Yarmouth at third-placed Godmanchester Rovers would be the permutation which could send them down.
Against a very youthful hosting Thetford Town side – with manager Danny White's team selection reflecting having their Norfolk Senior Cup final at Carrow Road against higher-league Dereham Town just three days away – Melford were never really in trouble.
Captain Steve Adams was delighted to see back-up goalkeeper Paul Snowdon make a mess of trying to deal with his 12th minute lobbed effort from wide on the left to give the Villagers' a 1-0 advantage heading into the interval.
With Great Yarmouth goalless at the break, Thetford put a cat among the pigeons 11 minutes into the second half when some terrible defending saw the ball pass through a crowd of players in Melford's penalty box before Harry Hutt grateful stabbed home.
But the nerves among the travelling contingent soon died down as they regained the lead within five minutes after goalkeper Snowdon and centre-back Dane Comber-Willis left a long ball for each other and Hassan Ally nipped in to lift it into the back of the net.
Seventeen-year-old Melford goalkeeper Michael Bett made an important save soon after to turn a Quevin Castro effort against the post, but it was mainly the visitors asking the questions at the other end and they put the result beyond any doubt with Ross Waugh's glancing header from substitute Pablo Chavez's free-kick eight minutes from time.
Great Yarmouth's 1-1 draw meant they would have gone down whatever the Melford score but it sends Jamie Bradbury's side into their Challenge Cup final (league cup) against Fakenham Town a week on Monday (at Diss Town FC 3pm) on the back of three straight victories. Meanwhile, Thetford finished where they started the day, in 14th and having won two of their last three matches.
Down a level in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division South, Halstead Town manager manager Mark McLean had wanted a response from his players to last Friday's hugely disappointing 2-1 home loss to Holland at home to mid-table Wormley Rovers.
But as they chased the runners-up spot, which could only be achieved by bettering Coggeshall United's result at champions Hashtag United this afternoon, and faint hopes of promotion on a best second placed points-per-game table across the country, he certainly did not get it.
Halstead went into the half-time break 3-0 down, with only a late headed goal by striker Chris Harris from a Kane Munday free-kick replying to a fourth goal for Wormley, who took away a 4-1 victory that left their hosts finishing in third spot and wondering what may have been, with Coggeshall dropping points in a goalless draw in north London.
Up three levels in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central, Needham Market sent their home fans away happy by beating play-off qualifiers Avelchurch 1-0 to finish their first campaign in the newly-formed division bang in the middle, in 11th place.
Colchester United loannee Decarrey Sheriff's first-half goal proved to be enough in a game not high on quality, with the Avelchurch goalkeeper helping to keep his side in touching distance.
Down a level in the Bostik League North Division, Bury Town's fine winning run was halted at five games as play-off qualifiers Heybridge Swift claimed a morale-boosting 2-1 victory at the Denny Bros Stadium in front of a bumper crowd of 565.
Jayden Randell put the visitors into the lead within six minutes before young winger or forward Emmanuel Machaya continued his fine scoring run with an equaliser in the 12th minute to take his tally to six goals in his last four games.
But Abouhadje Kouassi, who was on loan to Mildenhall Town earlier in the campaign, re-stored Swifts' lead in the 38th minute, which is how it ended up staying.
Bury had already secured sixth place heading into the match.
Elsewhere in the division, AFC Sudbury bounced back from the 4-3 Easter Monday derby day loss to Bury with an impressive 1-0 victory at another side bound for the play-offs, in Coggeshall Town (4th).
A Daryl Coakley goal in the 64th minute, on a rare recent start for the former Needham Market left-back, served to end a losing run which had stood at five matches, and see the Yellows finish eighth; four places higher than a year previously.
Second-placed Aveley proved too good for Soham Town Rangers as they sent themselves into the play-offs on the back of a 4-0 home win, leaving Robbie Mason's side finishing 16th, having lost three of their last four.
For Mildenhall Town it was goodbye to the Bostik League having already been relegated as the bottom-placed team, despite Monday's 3-0 win at Felixstowe & Walton United. But Ricky Cornish's side could not make their last home game a memorable occasion as they suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Grays Athletic, who finished seventh.
In front of a crowd of 209 at Recreation Way they trailed 2-0 at the break before Michael Toner scored Grays' third in the 64th minute.
Back down in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, Stowmarket Town's goalless draw at mid-table Norwich United saw Rick Andrew's men – many people's pre-season title favourites – finish fourth and a massive 24 points behind champions Histon, who sent already relegated Framlingham Town down with a 2-1 final day victory at the latter's Badingham Road ground.
Ely City, who had celebrated their survival with victory on Easter Monday, lost 2-0 at home to runners-up Woodbridge Town, while Hadleigh United finished three places and six points above the bottom two drop zone with a 2-1 home win over mid-table Newmarket Town (10th).
Haverhill Rovers finished 12th with a 2-1 home win against the side just a place below them, Whitton United. Ryan Weaver and Luke Haines replied to Whitton's second-half opener.
Walsham-le-Willows saw an impressive season where they spent much of it in the top six fall flat with a fourth straight defeat and a sixth in their last seven – 4-2 at home to Kirkley & Pakefield – seeing Trevor Newman's side end their campaign in ninth place.
Down a level in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North, having played all their matches already, Harleston Town could only watch on as a 3-0 victory for Swaffham Town at bottom side Felixstowe & Walton United Reserves saw them knock them off top spot to claim the title and the guaranteed promotion place.
But Harleston did not end their first campaign since promotion empty handed, having lifted the First Division Knockout Cup last night (Friday) with a 6-0 drubbing of First Division South mid-table side Holland at Woodbridge Town FC.
A Scott Roberts free-kick sent Leon Moore's side on their way at Notcutts Park before Sam Borrer, Nicholas Howell and a Matt Howard bullet header made it 4-0 by half-time. But they were not done as a double from substitute Betts added further gloss on a truly memorable night, with Holland ending with 10 men after a second yellow card for Reece Keating in the 79th minute.
Lakenheath completed an impressive first campaign at Step 6 since promotion last term with a 2-0 home win against third-placed Mulbarton Wanderers to finish fifth, with Kelvin Enaro's penalty having set them on their way.
Elsewhere in the division, Kevin Horlock's transformed Needham Market Reserves (17th) ended their campaign with a seventh win in their last 10 by defeating AFC Sudbury Reserves (13th) 5-3 on the road, while Debenham LC (11th) finished with a 1-0 home win against an improved Haverhill Borough outfit (16th).
Diss Town, who had gone into the season aiming for promotion, ended 15th following a 2-1 home loss to fourth-placed March Town United, while Suffolk Senior Cup finalists Cornard United (12th) lost 3-1 at ninth-placed Leiston Reserves. They now turn their attention fully to their Portman Road final against lower-league Achilles on Friday, May 10 (7.45pm).
* To vote for your Iliffe Media East Team of The Weekend, see our Twitter shortlisted poll via @russclaydon on Monday morning.
* For reaction to the weekend's results and what they meant, see next week's print titles.