Walsham still in driving seat

SIL SOCCER: Haughley 2 Walsham 2. Nigel Wallis scored a late equaliser that keeps Walsham-le-Willows in the driving seat to win the Metaltec SIL championship.They are now a point ahead of Haughley with a game in hand and will be content with a share of the spoils from this epic encounter.

Haughley 2 Walsham 2

NIGEL Wallis scored a late equaliser that keeps Walsham-le-Willows in the driving seat to win the Metaltec SIL championship.

They are now a point ahead of Haughley with a game in hand and will be content with a share of the spoils from this epic encounter.

"We needed to win," said Richard Friend, who runs the Haughley side with Gary Nunn.

"We took too long to get started." Friend and Nunn were unhappy with the equalising goal as they felt goalkeeper Merrill Clarke was fouled as he cleared the ball for a corner that led to the goal.

Clarke was left on the ground in the goal. Once he recovered, the dead ball kick reached Smith, and then Wallis, who turned and fired home low with his left foot giving Clarke no chance.

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In the remaining four minutes, plus stoppage time, Haughley never threatened to regain the lead in front of over 200 spectators who were absorbed by a competitive match that was a credit to the SIL.

Smith's class stood out all game and he opened the scoring in the 57th minute when he received a ball from the left, took two neat touches to create space, and then beat the keeper with a fierce volley.

Although Walsham had sent some teasing crosses into the danger zone, Haughley's defending had been good. The home side looked dangerous at times when they broke, but it was still somewhat of a surprise when the stalemate was broken.

But Haughley are made of stern stuff, and they pulled level in the 76th minute. An unnecessary foul on the edge of the box and an unsatisfactory wall gave Shaun Kidd all the incentive he needed to curl a well-directed free-kick into the corner of the goal.

Douglas Mustoe, who is set to face his goalkeeping twin brother in the final of the Omnico Cup against Stanton on May 14, then made a brave save to deny Martin Flack.

But he was left watching after 83 minutes when substitute Malcolm Stevens made in-roads down the left and crossed for Andy Powell to stoop unattended and head into the net.

At this stage the championship race was wide open, but Wallis' goal made a significant difference to the well-being of the Walsham players as they left the field.

Mustoe saved well from Joel Davenport in the 38th minute and Smith had two headers that went just wide in a tight first period.

Richard Partridge showed glimpses of pace down the Walsham right flank, but otherwise they depended on a busy midfield and the experience of Smith and Wallis.

Haughley were more fluid going forward but did not have the extra guile to create too many problems for a resolute defence and Mustoe.

Haughley: Clarke, Riggey, Thompson (sub Griggs 51 mins), Davenport, Vincent, Grover, Flack, Powell, Noller (Stevens 67), Kidd, Lummis. Subs: Robinson, Root, Lucraft. Starman: Powell.

Walsham: Mustoe, Keeble, Crane, Frost, James, M Musgrove (Radnor 82), Partridge, Moye, N Wallis, Smith, P Musgrove. Subs: Zarkos, L Wallis. Starman: Smith.

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