Mildenhall going up as league champions

SEWN UP: Mildenhall players celebrate Dan Brown's late goal at Mundford Road, which sealed the league title
SEWN UP: Mildenhall players celebrate Dan Brown's late goal at Mundford Road, which sealed the league title

THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE

PREMIER DIVISION

Thetford Town 0

Mildenhall Town 2

When Dean Greygoose took charge of Mildenhall in November 2014, the league title and thoughts of promotion had not been on the club’s agenda for some time.

Mildenhall had finished the previous campaign in 10th position and had not mounted a serious challenge for the main prize since Trevor Munns’ side finished runners-up to Wroxham in 2007.

HEADS UP: Dan Brown rises highest in a bid to make an impact of the substitutes' bench

HEADS UP: Dan Brown rises highest in a bid to make an impact of the substitutes' bench

But, under the Greygoose regime, there has been somewhat of a mentality change at Recreation Way.

His first full campaign at the helm ended in a sixth-placed finish and a maiden League Challenge Cup triumph in Mildenhall’s history.

Evidently, that success set the tone for 2016/17, with Greygoose’s men leading the way from almost day one as they embarked on a four-month winning sequence.

A wobble in January and February provided the chasing pack with a glimmer of hope, but Mildenhall kicked on again in March, picking up five victories in a row to leave them requiring four points over the Easter weekend to wrap up the title and a place in next season’s Ryman League Division One North.

ON TARGET: Chris Bacon fired in Mildenhall's opening goal in first-half stoppage time

ON TARGET: Chris Bacon fired in Mildenhall's opening goal in first-half stoppage time

Three of those came courtesy of Chris Bacon’s late header in Saturday’s 1-0 home win over FC Clacton, with the job being completed 48 hours later at Thetford.

Bacon was again on target — this time just before the interval — before substitute Dan Brown made sure of the outcome in the dying embers.

And with the championship now assured, Greygoose has revealed that while he played his cards close to his chest, certain members of the Mildenhall squad had made their title-clinching intentions known as early as last summer.

“It is amazing for the club. It has been done in a short period of time and that is a big credit to everybody that has been involved,” he said.

“I am not surprised because I was hoping to finish higher than sixth last year. This club should have been in the top six every year at the very least.

“The players felt the same way. We came back for pre-season and I was not saying it, but some of the players were adamant we would win the league.

“The intensity was there right from the start and that was the mentality the lads had all the way through.

“The biggest challenge with the confidence was keeping a lid on it and not saying too much about it.

“We wanted to do our talking out on the pitch and that is what has happened.”

Perhaps it was the fact that the prize was within their grasp and the significance of that particular achievement, but Mildenhall’s performance for long periods at Mundford Road felt flat.

Yet, the saying goes that champions find a way to win even when their display is off-colour, and the visitors followed that mantra to the letter against their youthful hosts.

Thetford had plenty of the ball in Mildenhall territory, but they could not find a way past a rearguard and goalkeeper that has conceded just one goal since Mat Mitchel-King returned to the club six games ago.

Ben Anderson went closest for the home side in the 21st minute with a curling shot from the edge of the area that cannoned against Josh Pope’s post, with Ross Bailey blasting over the rebound.

Mildenhall also carried a threat, primarily through Bacon, who was off target on two occasions.

However, as the first half ticked into time added on, there was nothing wrong with the experienced centre-forward’s radar.

Arran Mackay played in his strike partner and with the Thetford defence appealing for offside, Bacon strode on unopposed and slotted the ball beyond the reach of Kingsley Barnes.

Thetford’s Bailey fired wide early in the second half, followed by Cameron King sending a free-kick straight into Pope’s hands at the start of the second half, but by and large, clear-cut opportunities were at a premium after the restart.

That was until two minutes from time, though, when home centre-back Ryan Sanders and goalkeeper Barnes both misjudged the flight of a high ball, leaving Brown to lob into an unguarded net in front of a jubilant travelling faithful.

On the support his team have received this season, Greygoose said: “The end of the game showed the togetherness that we have created at the club when the fans come on to the pitch and we all celebrated the success together.

“That is something we have got to keep. They drive us on.

“We have got something special at this club.

“Non-league clubs are about the players and fans being together, which is something we have cracked.”

Mildenhall: Pope, J Brown, Butcher, Mitchel-King, Asensi, Simpson, Green, Melanson (Cooper 62), Mackay (D Brown 75), Bacon (Clift 83)

Journal Man of the Match: Luke Butcher

Attendance: 209

n On Saturday, the champions head to Essex for their penultimate league game against Stanway Rovers (sixth, 3pm).