Ten-man Felixstowe & Walton United win at Long Melford

Felixstowe players congratulate Craig Jennings (2nd right) on his goal

Felixstowe players congratulate Craig Jennings (2nd right) on his goal - Credit: Archant

With just goal difference separating the two sides at start of play and a possible top five spot awaiting the winners, there was plenty to play for on an afternoon mainly occupied by the FA Vase, with both these sides having byes into the later stages of that competition.

In the end this was a comfortable three points for the visitors despite playing with 10 men for over an hour after a first-half straight red card for Stuart Ainsley following a challenge on Melford’s Reece Clarke.

There was also a change of goalkeeper for the home side after regular custodian, Fred Howe, who spent half a season on loan at the Goldstar Ground when registered with AFC Sudbury, picked up a first-half injury, touching a goal bound shot onto the post from Jordan Matthews.

His 53rd minute replacement Paul Pengelly had the unenviable task of his first touch being to pick the ball out of the net after the visitors had taken the lead.

Long Melford started the game well with Reece Clarke at the centre of most of their good stuff, urging his side to get the ball down and play, and other than a first minute half chance, when Josh Kerridge glanced a header wide of Howe’s right hand upright from Ainsley’s free kick, it was the hosts who had the better of the exchanges.

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Dan Smith put too much height on a dangerous looking cross to the far post for Hassan Ally who just failed to connect in the 10th minute, and too often the final ball lacked the quality needed to find an opening.

And as the half progressed Felixstowe began to gain the upper hand. Liam Hillyard got on the end of a 23rd minute cross from Chris Williams, just failing to get a firm enough touch as he slid in and the ball slid wide of Howe’s post.

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The visitors were down to 10 men just before the half hour when Ainsley’s challenge on Clarke was deemed to be dangerous play by referee George Laflin, but instead of putting the Seasiders on the back foot it saw them take a positive stance, although they had an escape when Ashley Skeggs back-heeled the resultant free kick from the red card against the foot of Danny Crump’s post.

Jordan Matthews saw Howe touch his fierce low shot onto the post and away for a corner, but the keeper needed extended treatment before he could carry on.

The stoppage seemed to suit the visitors more and from that point they always looked in charge.

The Seasiders were confident enough to withdraw full back Arran Sheppard at the break, and put on the much more attack minded Callum Bennett in his place and the pressure was all on the home defence, although the opening goal came from a route one clearance by Crump.

Hillyard helped the ball on, and Williams was into space to run at the advancing goalkeeper and finish with a neat side foot into the bottom corner of the advancing Pengelly’s net.

Long Melford’s afternoon was summed up three minutes into time added on at the end of the 90 when Pengelly, out of his area for a free kick, found himself dispossessed by Craig Jennings who had only been on the pitch for two minutes, with the striker hitting a 30 yard looping volley into the unguarded net.

A quality finish to round off a good afternoon for the Seasiders, ahead of their big Emirates FA Cup match on Saturday.

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