Gallery: Walsham-le-Willows defeat Brantham Athletic in Thurlow Nunn Premier
- Credit: Archant
Luke Austin came off the bench to break Brantham hearts with a corking late winner for Walsham-le-Willows at Summer Road on Saturday.
Austin hadn’t been on the pitch 10 minutes before he struck home a 20-yarder that flew past Joe Fowler in the visitors’ goal with just five minutes to go, just as Brantham were going for the kill to collect all three Premier Division points.
It was a quality finish from Austin but hardly what the home side deserved after a tepid second period saw them holding on somewhat after the Imps had drawn level through Ollie Mann with 20 minutes to go – that after Walsham’s Charlie Robinson had given the home side a first-half lead.
On a bitterly cold afternoon that made Summer Road feel anything but, Walsham and Brantham served up an excellent advert for non-league football, despite the swirling wind.
Both teams set their stalls out to keep the ball on the floor and in doing so kept the crowd thoroughly entertained throughout.
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Walsham had the better of the first half and went in at the break a deserved goal ahead – Robinson’s shot from the edge of the box across Fowler hit the inside of the post and went in after just 13 minutes.
Both sides felt each other out in the early stages, but slowly Walsham got on top, Jack Brame and Ryan Foster, who joined Willows from Norwich United last week, bossing the midfield.
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Indeed Brantham were being bullied out of it by their more experienced hosts, although chances were always at a premium.
Brantham could have gone in at the break at least level had Jack Cawley’s thunderbolt not been a few inches lower rather than striking the bar in the 38th minute from a free-kick.
Then, a minute later Brantham claims for a penalty were waved away by referee Francis after Robinson appeared to handle a Jamie Beecham corner.
Brantham left the field at half-time feeling sore but whatever Imps’ boss Paul Abrahams said at half-time had the desired effect.
The second period was nearly all Brantham. Beecham stung Walsham ‘keeper Lee Pacey’s hands with a ferocious shot, while Brantham’s best player, Cawley, was almost on the end of a corner and then narrowly flicked wide from a long throw into the box.
Just when it seemed Walsham had weathered the storm, Brantham’s Ollie Mann fed the ball wide to namesake Simon Mann, who took one touch and delivered a pin-point cross back to the Brantham No.9, who headed home.
There were 20 minutes left and it was game on.
A minor floodlight failure which saw a quarter of the lights go out was dealt with stoically by the referee and players in true non-league style – as everyone just carried on with only 10 minutes to go.
Austin smashed home the winner with five minutes left, but there was still time for Simon Mann to see his header flicked onto the bar by Pacey, as the visitors went in search of a deserved equaliser.
It wasn’t to be for Brantham, as Walsham enjoyed their victory.