GALLERY: Felixstowe & Walton win 6-0 at Brantham Athletic in Thurlow Nunn League
- Credit: Archant
Ben Cranfield struck four first-half goals as Felixstowe & Walton tormented Brantham Athletic in a formidable display of ruthlessness.
Six goals up at half-time thanks to a skipper in fine poaching form and sterling efforts from Miles Powell and Andy Crump, no wonder they high-fived each other at the interval. No wonder hands were slumped on hips for the battered and bruised Brantham players as they trudged off the pitch single-filed, not a word being said.
Have there even been such contrasting scenes at 3.45pm on a Saturday afternoon at Brantham Leisure Centre?
It was a demolition job which confirmed Felixstowe & Walton as genuine top-three contenders with 10 league games of the season to go.
League leaders Hadleigh United, Brightlingsea Regent (third) and Godmanchester Rovers (fifth) have to visit The Goldstar Ground. Surely they are not relishing the prospect with the Seasiders, now in second place, evidently finding form at the right time. Their 12-game unbeaten run stretches back to December 14.
Ultimately, the most notable differences between the two sides were the penetration in attack and the organisation in defence.
For the Seasiders, Cranfield was a reliable outlet, feeding his wingers and closing down defenders. Danny Thrower foiled his markers time and again down the left flank, while midfielders Powell and Bradley Barber impressed with skill and composure.
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The visitors conjured moments of quality at will, like a magician whizzing through his act. A Cruyff turn here, a dummy over there. They were not afraid of the dirty stuff too. They pressed the hosts out of any possession game they might have attempted, while slide tackles and commanding headers stifled any threat of impending incursions.
At the other end, forward Ray Turner toiled to little effect, although his attitude could not be brought into question. Sean Gunn misplaced a simple pass out wide for a throw-in. James Turner surrendered possession meekly.
In one bleak moment – one which epitomised Brantham’s ineptitude in almost every department in the opening period – centre-back Jack Sibbons, receiving the ball from his goalkeeper and under no pressure, decided to launch it aimlessly in to opposition territory. It could not have landed any further from a player in blue.
Meanwhile, with the pitch at Bloomfields falling prey to the recent sodden weather, leading to the postponement of Needham Market’s clash against Thurrock, Mark Morsley, the Marketmen boss, was an interested observer at ringside.
He has close ties at Brantham and could be seen renewing old acquaintances, but scouting the Seasiders may well have been his primary objective. The two sides will battle for a place in the final of the Suffolk FA Premier Cup at Leiston on Wednesday night.
And Morsley would have been scribbling down notes as early as the eighth minute when the Brantham backline was first breached.
A lofted pass from the back flew over the hosts’ rearguard and found Cranfield. The 18-year-old Brantham goalkeeper George Mutimer tried to intercept but Cranfield was too quick, cushioning a volley over the teenager and in to the empty net.
Full-back Lewis Pemberton joined Powell in firing crosses in to the box, seeking to further exploit Brantham’s disorganised and fragmented defence.
Cranfield added a second soon after when sliding home Thrower’s off-target shot at the back post.
He sealed his hat-trick by the 30th minute. Thrower escaped his markers but his cross from the less was far less threatening than previous examples he had provided.
However, it merely served to expose Brantham’s frail state of mind. The first attempt of a clearance by Sibbons found his right-back, Jack Smith. It was a skewed and awkward attempt to clear his lines. But Smith somehow contrived to eclipse him, propelling the ball high in to the sky, confusing everyone around him.
All but Cranfield, who strolled up to the back post, waited for the ball to land, and duly prodded home.
The calamitous defending set the tone for the final 15 minutes of the half, in which a further three goals were chalked up.
In a reconstruction of the first goal, another simple pass was floated over Brantham’s defence. This time Powell was lurking behind. He saw Mutimer charging at him and, with aplomb, lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper.
Another sweeping move, loaded with first-time passes and instant control, ended with Cranfield grabbing his fourth from close range.
Moments later Crump crashed home a powerful header from the middle of the box.
“Have you brought your calculator ref?” One fan quipped. Others had already left their seats.
But happily for the home faithful, Brantham’s pulverised defence held firm in the second half, although the visitors had downgraded from a Ferrari to a Fiat in a decidedly less intense showing.
Yet the home side did enjoy some good spells in the second half. Number nine Turner spun from his marker and set up Ed Nobbs, the left winger. However, he fell as he struck the ball, clipping a post and watching it bounce away across the face of the goal to safety.
Moments before the final whistle Turner teed up Kieran Lawler. But, like Brantham throughout, he lacked the critical cutting edge, sailing over a 20-yard effort.
How Brantham will forget this dismal display.
How Felixstowe & Walton will cherish it.