Hadleigh have the tools to take win the Thurlow Nunn Premier
- Credit: Archant
With a fixture-congested Christmas period now imminent as the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division reaches the halfway stage, WILL RIDGARD rounds up the action so far this season and looks ahead to what the rest of the campaign may bring.
The race for the title
Hadleigh United have taken the division by storm so far and quite honestly haven’t looked back since a 4-0 win over Woodbridge Town on the opening day.
Blessed with experienced players who have all ‘been there, done that and got the t-shirt’ in their careers, it is hard to look beyond the Brettsiders as the favourites for the league title this season.
Manager Stuart Crawford has assembled a terrific squad that possess four fearsome strikers in Tesfaye Bramble, Josh Mayhew, Ollie Canfer and James Blades and their goals have been one of the main reasons Hadleigh are flying so high.
The Brettsiders, who currently sit seven points clear at the top of the table, have scored 62 goals in the league as things stand – 19 more than second-placed Godmanchester and other rivals.
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Hadleigh’s current closest rivals are Godmanchester Rovers, who after losing two of their opening three league games, have gone on a phenomenal run which has seen them accumulate 42 points out of their last 48.
Consistently impressive performances and results have kept Rovers in touching distance of Hadleigh and with two games in hand on the Brettsiders, Godmanchester have top spot firmly in their sights.
‘Goddy’ are the only team to have beaten Hadleigh this term following a 1-0 triumph and will look to replicate their success when the two meet in a potentially title-defining game at the end of March.
One team that have taken the Thurlow Nunn by complete surprise are Brightlingsea Regent.
Having made a rapid rise through the Essex & Suffolk Border Leagues, Regent, formerly Brightlingsea United, are enjoying their first season at this level.
Regent currently sit in fifth position but should they win their games in hand would be just one point shy of leaders Hadleigh.
Quite astonishingly, the only team Brightlingsea have lost to in the league this season is Hadleigh (twice).
Still in the FA Vase, it has been quite a fairytale story for the Essex side so far and having submitted an application to go up into the Ryman League, you’d be a brave man to bet against them from achieving that goal.
Others in the race
Gorleston have gone about their business quietly this season and although their results have been a little inconsistent they have loitered in and around the top four for the majority of the campaign. The Greens, who finished in third position last year, have been in free-scoring fashion this season with the goals of Christy Finch (18), Nathan Stone (10) and Bradley Hough (seven) crucial to their success.
Their entertaining 7-5 victory over Newmarket is likely to go down as the game of the season so far. Prediction: 4th
Haverhill Rovers have enjoyed a fine season to date and have surprised a few this season with how well they are doing.
Rovers currently find themselves in third position and have dug out a number of impressive results so far with strikers Andrew Ofosu and Dan Cornwell making a real impact.
Although they have suffered defeats to Hadleigh, Godmanchester, Felixstowe & Walton and Walsham in the last two months, Rovers have largely kept their focus and produced a brilliant 3-2 result last time out to get their own-back on Felixstowe and prove that they mean business this season.
They face a season-defining run of games next with Brantham, Brightlingsea, Haverhill and Gorleston, four of the five teams they next pit their wits against.
Although winning the title maybe slightly out of their reach, Felixstowe & Walton shouldn’t be underestimated in the rest of the campaign. Manager Kevin O’Donnell has built a really strong outfit who are difficult to beat and I think you can see them only continuing to improve.
Brantham Athletic are another team I think you can expect to vastly improve in the league in the new year.
The Imps have underachieved a little so far but with renewed confidence from their run in the FA Vase and with a popular appointment in Paul Abrahams as manager, there’s every chance Brantham could merge into the top five should they pick up the pace.
The dreaded drop
As well as an exciting season at the top of the table, there has also been an intriguing battle down at the foot of the league.
Although teams might not necessarily be relegated from the Thurlow Nunn Premier – depending on who finishes in the top three positions in Division One with regards to promotion applications – pride and position is still very much up for grabs.
Woodbridge Town have been rock bottom all season after failing to win a single game under former boss Mark Scopes but the Woodpeckers managed to get their first three points of the season under the caretaker management duo of Louis Newman and Sean Clements with a win over fellow-strugglers Wivenhoe Town at the weekend.
Gaining points and winning games against teams in a similar positions to yourselves seem to help you more and if the Woodpeckers are able to somehow drag themselves out of this position, they will need to triumph against the likes of Thetford and FC Clacton, who they still have to play twice.
Wivenhoe have also struggled this season, only scoring 16 goals all season and winning just twice, and are looking precariously over their shoulder at basement-side Woodbridge.
Prediction: I can see Woodbridge climbing above Wivenhoe as the season progresses with Clacton, Thetford and Ely City all being further dragged into a bitter battle at the foot of the table.
16th – FC Clacton, 17th – Ely City, 18th – Thetford Town, 19th – Woodbridge Town, 20th – Wivenhoe Town.
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