Thurlbourne bags a hat-trick as Jockeys keep slim hopes alive

FRESH FACE: Simon Swinton made his Newmarket debut in the high-scoring victory at Long Melford
FRESH FACE: Simon Swinton made his Newmarket debut in the high-scoring victory at Long Melford

THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE

PREMIER DIVISION

Long Melford 2

Newmarket Town 4

Were the bookmakers taking bets, Newmarket would be priced as the rank outsiders to clinch the Premier Division title this season.

After all, the third-placed Jockeys are seven points behind leaders Mildenhall Town, while Felixstowe & Walton United (second) and Gorleston (fourth) will go clear if they win their games in hand.

Nevertheless, there is some major momentum building within Kevin Grainger’s side after Friday’s win at Melford made it seven league victories in a row.

The hero on the night was Jamie Thurlbourne, who in scoring a hat-trick took his goal tally for the season to 20.

The winger accepts it is unlikely Newmarket will be top of the pile come the end of April, but having developed into the ‘best side in the league’, he has warned they are ready to pounce should their rivals falter down the home straight.

“It is a shame we did not start the season a bit better because right now I believe we are the best side in the league,” said Thurlbourne.

“We probably lacked a couple of players at the start but we have them now.

“Had they been here all year we would be a lot closer.

“You still never know. It looks unlikely, but teams around us are starting to drop points so we have a slight chance.”

A relatively mundane first half at Stoneylands was lit up by Thulbourne’s 30th-minute intervention.

Other players would almost certainly have attempted to bring the ball under control as it dropped out of the sky 20 yards from goal.

Thurlbourne had other ideas, though, as he lashed in a first-time volley that had too much power for Melford goalkeeper Darren Moyes.

To the credit of the hard-working hosts they were level in the 64th minute after Michael Runicles darted towards the near post to turn the ball home.

However, within three minutes, Newmarket’s free-flowing attacking play helped them to establish a 3-1 lead.

Lewis Whitehead was first to score as his deflected shot deceived Moyes for his 28th goal of the campaign, before Thurlbourne squeezed the ball home from a tight angle.

And the hat-trick was completed in the 81st minute when Thurlbourne cut in from the right flank on to his stronger left foot and picked out the top corner in emphatic fashion.

A late Will Wingfield penalty after Newmarket goalkeeper Ben Nower had fouled Nathan Rowe reduced the deficit, but it did little to dampen the away side’s third victory in six days.

Newmarket: Nower, Seaber-Shinn, Betson, Webster, Chivers, Watson, Napier, Swinton, Whitehead, Diaper (Seymour 50), Thurlbourne (Goddard 84)

Attendance: Jamie Thurlbourne

Journal Man of the Match: 106

n Newmarket host Walsham-le-Willows on Saturday (3pm), having thrown away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with the Suffolk side earlier this year at Summer Road.