THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Ely City 1
Newmarket Town 1
‘You have set your own high standards’ — that was the message from manager Brady Stone to his Ely City players after they claimed a late point against Newmarket Town on Friday.
Despite more than holding their own against their previously second-placed neighbours, it seemed Ely were going to have little to show for their efforts at the Ellgia Stadium.
Newmarket took the lead in the first half through Steve Holder and when the hosts’ Alex Theobald missed from the penalty spot after the restart, the writing was seemingly on the wall.
But Sam Reed — a former Newmarket striker — earned the Robins a deserved point eight minutes from time with an acrobatic effort that cannoned in off the post.
Stone has been openly critical of his side in recent weeks, stressing they had been playing well below the levels they are capable of producing.
But they looked a different proposition against the Jockeys, leading Stone to call for more of the same going forward.
“From start to finish I honestly felt we were the better side,” said the Ely boss.
“Apart from the goal, I do not think Harry (Reynolds, Ely goalkeeper) has had anything to do.
“We played well in the first half against Felixstowe and we have been good tonight — we have got to show more of this week in, week out.
“If we can do that, we will be in the top half.
“The character the lads have shown, especially after missing a penalty, was fantastic — fair play to them.”
Theobald — Ely’s leading goalscorer in each of the last two seasons — flashed a couple of headers wide early on, before the visitors broke the deadlock with their first shot of note in the 23rd minute.
A centre-back in his playing days, the goal’s route one nature was something that particularly irked Stone.
A long kick forward from Newmarket goalkeeper Alex Archer was flicked on by Austen Diaper to Chris Bacon, who promptly helped the ball through for Holder.
Sprinting away from the Ely defence, Newmarket’s number 11 then showed good composure to fire low and hard into the bottom corner.
That was to be the half’s only clear cut opening as both sides cancelled each other out.
It was on the hour mark that Ely were presented with their best opportunity to draw level.
James Seymour, who recently returned to the club from Newmarket, burst into the box, only to be upended by Jordan Lambert.
Theobald took on the responsibility from 12 yards, but his effort flew wide of Archer’s left-hand post.
That could have been the signal for Ely to fold, yet they continued to plug away and that determination was rewarded in the 82nd minute.
Seymour chased down Newmarket’s Jamie Thurlbourne towards the right corner flag and then managed to send over a cross.
The bounce deceived the Newmarket defence, but not Reed, who swiftly adjusted his body to create the space for him to fire in a point-earning scissor kick.
In fact, it could have got even better for the home side in the 85th minute when the ball spun goalwards following a scramble, only for the post to come to Newmarket’s rescue.
Newmarket boss Kevin Grainger said: “I am disappointed but to be fair we did not deserve any more from it. I thought it was a poor game overall.
“I thought at half-time we could go on to boss the game but it did not happen.
“We did not play enough football — a draw was a fair result.”
Ely: Reynolds, Walter, A Brown, Goodge, T Williams, Brookes, S Reed (Heap 85), Sewell, R Williams (L Reed 70), Theobald (J Brown 77), Seymour
Newmarket: Archer, Paterson (Groves 90), Thurlbourne, Lambert, Bowen, Watson, Spriggs, McGeorge (Swinton 67), Bacon, Diaper, Holder (Napier 75)
Journal Man of the Match — Sam Reed
n Jonathan Brown was in clinical form on Tuesday night with two goals in Ely’s 3-0 win over Fakenham Town at home.
Nick Heap scored the Robins’ other goal as they moved up to ninth in the league standings.
n Ely travel to Stowmarket Town on Saturday (3pm) and then host Haverhill Rovers on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Newmarket, meanwhile, will be in action in the Buildbase FA Vase first round proper at Enfield Borough on Saturday (3pm).
n On the transfer front, Ely have signed midfielder Jamie Hilton from Mildenhall Town, with Liam Griffin heading to Sawston United on a dual registration deal and Dom Hunt dropping down a division with Downham Town.