Youngsters of Woodbridge Town hold their own against an experienced Stowmarket Town side in a thoroughly entertaining four-goal thriller
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Thurlow Nunn First Division pair Woodbridge Town and Stowmarket Town played out a thoroughly entertaining four-goal thriller on Saturday as the spoils were shared in what turned out to be the first ‘groundhopper’ fixture of the weekend.
The Woodpeckers raced into a two-goal lead courtesy of goals from Aaron Greenwood, and a stunning free-kick from Alex Greggor, but Stowmarket pegged them back with efforts from Ben Licence and captain Sean Rea.
After the disappointment on Friday evening which saw Felixstowe and Walton’s home tie with Hadleigh United postponed due to heavy fog, groundhoppers from afar as Nottingham and beyond had to make do with an 11.55am start on Saturday morning at Woodbridge’s Notcutts Park.
But the wait was certainly worth it, as this game turned out to be entertaining and breathtaking from the first kick to the last, with the end result, which could’ve easily gone either way, a fair one in truth.
These two, who were at the opposite ends of the spectrum before kick-off, had met just weeks earlier where the older and more experienced heads of Stowmarket prevailed 4-1 over a youthful Woodbridge side.
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But, learning from their mistakes, and under the guidance of player-manager Jamie Scales, deploying himself at centre-half for this game, the young guns from Woodbridge put up one hell of a fight against a Stowmarket side who struggled to deal with their pace and movement, especially in the first half.
Stow, sitting pretty in third place in the league, actually came out of the blocks the quicker in the opening exchanges as Chris Gray’s powerful volley flashed just wide of the Woodbridge post shortly after kick-off.
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Licence, Stowmarket’s brightest spark going forward, then looked certain to score after his clever run in between the Woodbridge back-line presented him with a chance, and after seemingly rounding Woodpecker keeper Luke Kingham-Jones, it appeared the dynamic winger was just going to roll the ball into the empty net but Kingham-Jones made an excellent recovery block to deny him.
Kingham-Jones is Woodbridge’s normal reserve team keeper and was only called upon on Saturday following Adam Wilson’s unavailability, but the youngster will surely get another chance to shine following a simply excellent display that frustrated the living daylights out of the Stowmarket camp.
The stopper reacted brilliantly in the ninth minute to readjust to Tom Bradlaugh’s deflected effort, and that gave the youngster the confidence to go on and have a terrific game as he made save after save.
16-year-old striker George Mrozek also enjoyed an excellent game as his pace, persistence and movement caused seasoned Stowmarket centre-halves Gavin Flurrie and Stefan Marsh all kinds of problems.
And although the talented youngster didn’t score, he more than had a hand in Woodbridge’s quickfire first-half goals.
After proving a nuisance to the Stow back-line, he presented Ryan Keeble the chance to shoot from all of 30 yards, and that he did with a swerving effort Stow stopper Darren McCarrick did well to tip over.
And from that resulting corner, Keeble’s precise kick was supremely tucked into the roof of the net by the onrushing Greenwood in the 14th minute.
It was a goal a little out of the blue from the home side and a little against the run of play, and the Woodpeckers were at their ruthless best just three minutes later.
After more superb persistence from Mrozek drew a foul 35 yards out from goal, Greggor unleashed a fantastic and powerful free-kick that flew in off the underside of the bar – a beautiful goal.
A startled Stowmarket then slowly started to respond in the rest of the half as they began to pepper the Woodbridge goal with Wayne Proctor inches away from scoring with a precise chip that shaved the post after Kingham-Jones had raced off his line.
The stopper had previously blocked bravely from Proctor, while aplty-named versatile forward player Licence fired just wide amidst vain shouts for a penalty.
And that persistent knocking on the Woodpeckers’ door eventually paid off in the 37th minute as Licence nestled a lovely header into the net from a Baden Holmes cross.
And Stow continued to up the ante at the start of the second half with Kingham-Jones finding himself increasingly busier.
The 17-year-old stopper, part of a youthful Woodbridge side that have all played for the club’s under-18 side, had somewhat of a duel with ex-Woodpecker Sean Rea as the game wore on.
Three times Rea saw fierce efforts superbly saved by Kingham-Jones, one of which was a terrific double save in which the keeper produced heroics.
But Rea was not to be denied and finally got the goal he and his side were looking for as he poked home from a corner in the 65th minute.
The game was quickly becoming increasingly stretched as both teams fought their way for a winner – the unselfish Mrozek again presented Woodbridge a chance but lively substitute Armani Schaar fired over.
Kingham-Jones saved from Proctor expertly with his feet, before saving the best till last with a unbelievable close-range reaction stop to deny Carl Widdowson in injury time.
Woodbridge skipper for the day, George Cooper, could’ve been the hero with his last touch before leaving for university but his header went agonisingly wide in a superb spectacle for the neutral.
Woodbridge: Kingham-Jones, Hutchings (W.Seccombe), Moss, Cooper (c), Scales, Cole, Greggor, Greenwood, Keeble (Schaar), McPhillips (Harbut), Mrozek . Unused: Hunter.
Stowmarket: McCarrick, Holmes, Brill (R.Ingram), Flurrie, Marsh, Rea (c), Capocci, Licence, Proctor (Widdowson), Bradlaugh, Gray (Austin). Unused: Pearson