DIVISION ONE NORTH
Mildenhall Town 0
Dereham Town 1
If there had been any uncertainty lingering at Recreation Way as to just how cut-throat life would be at Step Four, Tuesday evening’s defeat to Dereham Town will have banished those.
Mildenhall Town — last season’s Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division champions and League Challenge Cup winners — were worthy of a point from their first ever home match in the Bostik League set-up.
But, after failing to convert one or two good openings, Dean Greygoose’s side were punished in cruel fashion when Dereham right-back Jake Anema saw his 89th-minute effort deflect off the unfortunate Joe Asensi and bounce into the roof of the net.
It followed on from Saturday’s 2-1 curtain-raising defeat at Heybridge Swifts, where Mildenhall rallied in the second half but only had a Chris Bacon penalty to show for their endeavours.
Greygoose was suspended for the trip to Essex but he has since watched the game back on video.
And having now seen his team in the flesh at a higher level, the boss is backing his players to learn as they go.
“We created more than enough chances (against Dereham) and we put them under a lot of pressure at times. They know they have been in a game,” he said.
“We did not always make enough of the possession we had, but I am being picky. We did well and the boys gave everything.
“We are used to winning at the death, but we need to be a little bit more clever.
“Last year we could go at teams and we knew goals would come, but we cannot do that now.
“We have stepped up and all of us need to understand that. It is all about being a little bit cuter in the way we do things.
“We just need to be a bit more clinical. Once we get that first goal from open play, we will be fine.
“It is a learning curve, but we have competed well in the two games and shown enough to suggest will be comfortable.”
Clear-cut chances were few and far between during the first half, with neither goalkeeper particularly over-worked.
Mildenhall’s new custodian Sam Roach caused his own problems in the 13th minute with a poor clearance, but he quickly redeemed himself to deny Rhys Logan at the near post.
The home side’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes, meanwhile, saw midfielder Matt Green send a glancing header skidding just wide of the far post from Jake Kerins’ deep cross.
Roach again got the better of Logan at the start of the second half, before the best chance of the night up until that point fell the way of Mildenhall frontman Shaun Avis in the 52nd minute.
His strike from point-blank range was clean and powerful, but it was too close to Dereham goalkeeper Elliot Pride, who got his body behind the ball.
Five minutes later another of Mildenhall’s summer additions — Jake Chambers-Shaw — cut in from the right flank and unleashed a left-footed effort that appeared destined for the roof of the net before Pride intervened with a fingertip stop.
There was then a lull in proceedings as far as goalscoring opportunities were concerned until the 82nd minute when Dereham full-back — and eventual match-winner — Anema turned and fired goalwards inside the Mildenhall box, only for his effort to cannon to safety off the base of the post.
But, while luck had been against the defender on that occasion, seven minutes later he enjoyed a huge slice of good fortune to earn the visitors from Norfolk all three points.
Breaking through the line between the Mildenhall midfield and defence, Anema soon found himself on the edge of the home side’s area, from where he fired in a low shot.
Diving to his left, Roach committed himself to stopping the attempt when the ball spun up off Asensi and crept in just underneath the crossbar before the Mildenhall gloveman, who to his credit reacted swiftly, could come to his team’s rescue.
Mildenhall: Roach, Kerins, Brown, Butcher, Crow, Simpson, Chambers-Shaw, Green, Bacon, Avis, Asensi
Journal Man of the Match - Joe Asensi: A composed performance from the centre-back, who did not deserve to see the winning goal deflect in off him.
n Mildenhall will aim to get their first win of the season on Saturday when they travel to Framlingham Town in the Preliminary Round of the Emirates FA Cup (3pm).
The Castlemen, who ply their trade in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division, beat Wadham Lodge 3-1 in a replay during the previous round.
n In the Velocity Sports Trophy (league cup), Mildenhall have been dealt a quick return to Saturday’s conquerors Heybridge Swifts.
Before Bacon’s penalty at the weekend, Reece Grant scored two first-half goals for Swifts, while Kerins saw red for Mildenhall late on.