Monday, 7 March 2016

Hadleigh United 2 v 2 Fakenham Town

Saturday 5th March 2016
Millfield, Hadleigh
Eastern Counties League Premier Division
Admission: £7.00
Programme: Free
Attendance: 152
Match Rating: 3

Taking in this game was very much a case of "needs must", only because I had only visited Millfield as recently as last July. But my initial plan to head for Needham Market following my lunchtime game at Stowmarket was thwarted when the pitch failed an early pitch inspection. Despite the Twitter feed stating that the pitch at Felixstowe and Walton only just passed a lunchtime club pitch inspection, I headed in that direction, only for that game to be called off as well just as I crossed the Orwell Bridge at 2 o'clock after one heavy shower too many. So I turned around and headed for Hadleigh to take in a game which was actually the designated Groundhopper Weekend 3 o'clock match.

The Millfield is a very pleasant place to watch football, described in detail on my previous visit. It was a nice touch that programmes were offered free of charge to all groundhoppers today, and a decent programme it was too, attractively laid out and with plenty of stats and reading material.

Hadleigh's season is heading for a comfortable mid-table finish, as they were in 11th place in the 20 team division, with ten wins and four draws from their 27 games so far. The season is rather more interesting for Fakenham, unfortunately at the wrong end of the table, as they were second bottom and had played more games than all other teams around them. They had won six and drawn two of their 29 games, and were seven points adrift of safety coming into today's game. When the two teams met in January, Fakenham won 3-0.

With much brighter conditions than this morning at Stowmarket, with the sun even putting in an appearance at one stage but the very chilly wind prevailing, the first half was surprising considering the league positions of the two teams, as Fakenham looked much the better team and did most of the attacking, and they duly took the lead on 15 minute when a long looping ball from the left wing fell to Danny Williams, who bundled the ball in from close range at the far post. They doubled their lead a minute before the break when some rather static defending allowed Matt Franks dribble into a central position before firing the ball home.

So, Fakenham held a comfortable and deserved half time lead as they set out in the second half to secure a priceless three points in their battle against relegation. One expected that Hadleigh could not play as badly as they had in the first half though, and so it proved as they looked the better team after the break. Fakenham still looked quite comfortable for the most part despite allowing Hadleigh plenty of possession, until the home side were awarded a penalty when Danny Thower was tripped in the box. Thrower fired the ball low into the bottom left hand corner, only just beating the keeper's dive. Still Hadleigh enjoyed plenty of possession without really threatening to get back on level terms, although Fakenham had a massive let-off on 68 minutes when the ball was fired back off the cross bar following a pull-back and a follow up shot was blocked. But as Fakenham looked increasingly likely to hold on to the priceless three points, Hadleigh scored a great goal. The ball was played up and through the defence, and Sam Sharp hit a superb volley into the far top corner, to send the Fakenham players to their knees, and one couldn't help but feel sorry for them, although Hadleigh were rewarded for a much improved second half performance.

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