GALLERY: Hadleigh United crowned Thurlow Nunn champions, pipping Brightlingsea Regent and Felixstowe & Walton to the post
- Credit: Archant
Hadleigh United’s Duane Wright was the toast of Millfield on Saturday after his late strike guided the Brettsiders to their first-ever Eastern Counties League Premier Division championship.
In the most dramatic of final days, the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division title went down to the wire – indeed it went right down to the final five minutes of the season.
Both Brightlingsea Regent and Hadleigh had gone into the last day on 80 points, with the Suffolk side having the better goal differnece.
With Brightlingsea winning at home to Norwich United, Mildenhall’s 85th minute party-pooper leveller at Hadleigh meant the title appeared to be heading into Essex.
But just one minute after Michael Harvey’s thunderous equalising strike for Mildenhall, Wright put Hadleigh back in the boss seat with a fantastic leap from Shane Wardley’s cross to send the home side into raptures – there were just four minutes left.
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Indeed Hadleigh boss Stuart Crawford admitted to having a few nerves on Saturday morning when he woke up ahead of his side’s title-decider clash.
But he tried to keep things as normal as possible with his players before the match. And he was delighted it all turned out right in the end.
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“I must admit I did feel a bit different to the way I normally feel before a game,” Crawford admitted.
“I can only imagine how my players must have been feeling.
“It’s easy to say I know, but I told them to relax and express themselves and I thought the first 25 minutes we dominated.
“But in the second half, I sensed a goal coming for them. But we didn’t panic or change anything and I’m so pleased for Duane (Wright) to get the winner.
“We’ve played together and against each other back in the day. He’s a great lad. I’m proud of them all.”
Wright admitted: “Even when they equalised, I thought if we just keep plugging away it will come.
“Heading comes naturally to me and I’m happy of course to win the game with a header. But all the boys did well today.”
Hadleigh captain Paul Donnelly said: “The last handful of games I actually did feel confident we could do this.
“We needed to show character today though and we did that. This one is not just for the players, but for the management and all the fans.”
While Shane Wardley admitted: “This is right up there with many things I have won. But I must admit I did think ‘oh no’ after they equalised.
“But I’m 34 now and this is another medal. We never let our heads drop and that is why we did what we did in the end.”
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