Haughley United boss Phil Fairbrother targets top-four finish

HAUGHLEY United boss Phil Fairbrother is targeting a top-four finish and the Touchline Sports Cup as the Kingsley Healthcare SIL enters the second half of the season.

The village side sit in ninth place in the Senior Division with 19 points from 15 games after an injury-hit opening half of the campaign has seen Haughley short of firepower.

Former Melton St Audry’s and Framlingham Town manager Fairbrother took over at Haughley in February last year when they were bottom of the table and still without a win and masterminded ‘The Great Escape’ as they finished fifth bottom and 10 points clear of relegation.

However, hopes of kicking-on and challenging at the top end of the table this season have so far been disrupted by injuries and suspensions.

Strikers Nathan Smith, who has just returned after a broken wrist, Craig Simpson (injury and suspension), Simon Gresham (broken ribs and suspension) and Kwame Jones (injury) have missed nearly 40 games between them this season.

After losing four players at the start of the season and struggling to get replacements in, Haughley have only won once in the league since mid-September, although they have lost just three times.

Fairbrother said: “We have lost once to Grundisburgh, who are in a different class to most sides in this league, and twice to Ipswich Athletic in two tight games, so no-one has turned us over. We have defended well, but been short of firepower.”

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“I have not put the same side out twice this season. We have had a terrible run of injuries and not been helped by suspensions.

“But with everyone available I have now got a headache picking the side. If we can have a good finish like we did last season then we can finish in the top four, and the Touchline Sports Cup now represents our only chance of silverware.”

Haughley progressed to the fourth round of the cup on Tuesday at the expense of Thurston, who are bottom of Division One, thanks to an emphatic 7-3 win with Simpson (2), Gresham (2) and Jones all on the scoresheet along with Martin McConnell and an own goal.

“We played three at the back in the first half and then went 4-4-2 in the second half and rolled them over. We were on a hiding to nothing, but Thurston played well and are not as bad a side as their league position suggests.”

The win sets Haughley up for tomorrow’s match at Stanton, who are one place and two points better off than their visitors, who have a game in hand.

Fairbrother said: “Four of our players joined from Stanton this season, so there is some rivalry which could add a bit of spice to the game, although we are trying to talk it down.”

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