Match report: Mildenhall write another chapter in record books

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Luke Butcher (left) and Gareth Simpson (right) lift the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup trophy. Picture: Gary Donnison
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Luke Butcher (left) and Gareth Simpson (right) lift the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup trophy. Picture: Gary Donnison
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THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE CHALLENGE CUP FINAL: Mildenhall Town 2 Newmarket Town 1

The year 1990 saw Margaret Thatcher resign from her post as Prime Minister, the 25-day riots at Strangeways Prison and Paul Gascoigne's tears in Turin.

DREAM START: Luke Butcher wheels away after breaking the deadlock after 49 seconds. Picture: Gary Donnison

DREAM START: Luke Butcher wheels away after breaking the deadlock after 49 seconds. Picture: Gary Donnison

It was also a year in which the Eastern Counties League Challenge Cup was last successfully defended until today, when Mildenhall Town matched Sudbury Town's exploits by retaining a trophy they won 12 months ago to go alongside this season's Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title triumph.

Last May it was Norwich United that lost out 2-1 to Dean Greygoose's men, while 12 months later neighbours Newmarket Town were defeated by the same scoreline at Brewers Green Lane, home of Diss Town FC.

The champions got off to a dream start - breaking the deadlock inside the first minute - before Newmarket made the most of a strong opening to the second half with an equaliser.

But the decisive moment arrived in the 67th minute courtesy of Stephen Spriggs, who fired in his 24th goal of the campaign after good work by team-mate Dan Brown as Mildenhall became just the third club since the turn of the millennium to wrap up a Thurlow Nunn League and Cup double.

ALL SQUARE: Mark Webster is mobbed by team-mates after heading Newmarket level. Picture: Gary Donnison

ALL SQUARE: Mark Webster is mobbed by team-mates after heading Newmarket level. Picture: Gary Donnison

The match-winner was also heavily involved in his team's opener, which stopped the clock in 49 seconds. Spriggs hoisted a free-kick from deep into the Newmarket area, where Matt Green rose highest to flick the ball on. Waiting at the back post was captain Luke Butcher and he turned home his fifth goal in the last three fixtures, sparking big celebrations in front of the Mildenhall faithful that had congregated behind Ben Nower's goal.

By and large, that was the end of the clear-cut chances in the first half, though in stoppage time Newmarket winger Jamie Thurlbourne fizzed in a low shot that Mildenhall goalkeeper Josh Pope parried, prompting Butcher to clear the danger ahead of a ready-to-pounce Lewis Whitehead.

Dan Brown blazed a good chance to double Mildenhall's lead over the crossbar early in the second half, yet to their credit Newmarket came out after the restart on the front foot and were rewarded in the 53rd minute.

Having taken a corner that was cleared, Thurlbourne found himself out wide on the right flank, from where he cut inside and curled in a dangerous cross. Newmarket defender Mark Webster probably could not have believed the space he was afforded by the Mildenhall rearguard, but he certainly did not stop to ask any questions with a downward header that left Pope no chance.

MATCH WINNER: Stephen Spriggs celebrates with the Mildenhall fans and his team-mates after making it 2-1. Picture: Gary Donnison

MATCH WINNER: Stephen Spriggs celebrates with the Mildenhall fans and his team-mates after making it 2-1. Picture: Gary Donnison

Now that parity had been restored, the trophy was up for grabs again and both sides set about winning it. Veteran goalkeeper Nower showed great reflexes to turn away a Butcher header that seemed destined for the top corner, while up the other end Deakan Napier side-footed a volley over from close range after being picked out by Thurlbourne's accurate left boot.

Sixty-five minutes had elapsed when Napier fluffed his lines and within 120 seconds, Mildenhall had scored a second pivotal goal.

Dan Brown, who won the cup in 2016 with two late goals as a substitute, strode down the left flank, beating two Newmarket defenders in the process. The forward then had the presence of mind to cross rather than shoot, picking out an advancing Spriggs to the right hand side of the box.

The winger's first touch drew Nower off his line in a bid to narrow the angle, but with a powerful shot that got the better of the goalkeeper and two retreating Newmarket players, Spriggs and the Recreation Way-based outfit were celebrating what ended up being the trophy-clinching goal.

It was a moment that seemed to knock the stuffing out of Newmarket, with Kevin Grainger's team struggling to work Pope thereafter - not helped by injuries that forced the returning Ollie Snaith and leading goalscorer Whitehead off the pitch early.

And so it was left to Mildenhall to see out the remainder of the game before skipper Butcher and experienced midfielder Gareth Simpson got their hands on a second piece of silverware in 48 hours following Saturday's presentation of the league trophy.

Mildenhall: Pope, J Brown, Asensi, Mitchel-King, Butcher, Simpson (Ruddy 90), Spriggs, Green, D Brown, Clift (Cooper 83), S Parkinson (L Parkinson 74)

Newmarket: Nower, Seymour, Betson (Seaber-Shinn 87), Webster, Bowen, Watson, Napier, Swinton, Whitehead (Foster 84), Snaith (Hatoum 74), Thurlbourne

Man of the Match: Dan Brown

Attendance: 393

* For match reaction, see this week's print editions