Mildenhall Town lose Bostik League North Division basement battle at Romford
The proverbial fat lady may not be singing just yet for Mildenhall Town, but following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at bottom-of-the-table Romford, she is certainly warming up her vocal chords.
Second-from-bottom Mildenhall made the trip to Rookery Hill still seven points from safety in the Bostik League North Division, but with a total of 27 still up for grabs.
A win would have cut the deficit to five, but instead Romford – winless since New Year’s Day – moved level with their visitors thanks to George Woodward’s deflected effort five minutes from time, leaving both sides eights points away from getting their heads above water.
However, that only tells half of the story of events in Essex, where Mildenhall were reduced to 10 men after just 18 minutes when leading goalscorer Evans Kouassi was handed his marching orders for retaliation.
Romford broke the deadlock three minutes later but after that it was difficult to tell which of the teams were depleted, with Mildenhall actually carving out the better of the chances.
Stuart Zanone’s first goal for the club since his arrival last month drew them level two minutes after the hour mark and it seemed as though all the momentum was with Ricky Cornish’s men, but it was the hosts that dealt the killer blow late on before Mildenhall skipper Luke Butcher saw red for a late challenge.
Nevertheless, positivity continues to reign at Recreation Way, with Cornish setting his team the challenge of picking up 15 points between now and the end of the season.
“It is a game we should never have lost, even with 10 men,” said Cornish, who will see his side entertain Tilbury on Saturday (3pm).
“We created the better of the chances and for much of the game it did not look like 11 versus 10. It is a blow but basically we now have one game less to put 15 points on the board. There is no negativity and it is still a positive changing room.
“The players are still upbeat and they are looking forward to a huge eight weeks.”
Mildenhall started brightly in the windy conditions and, after Tom Debenham had headed Tommy Robinson’s inswinging corner over the bar, midfielder Jarid Robson was unlucky to see his half volley cannon against the base of the post and bounce to safety.
Then came the first setback, with Kouassi reacting to a foul committed on him just inside the Mildenhall half, leaving the referee with little option but to brandish a red card.
On that incident, Cornish said: “It was a sending off. It was not a nice tackle but you cannot react like that and he should have just walked away.”
Worse was to come in the 21st minute when Robson missed his kick in the centre of midfield and Romford sprung forward. The ball was eventually worked to Ayo Olukoga, who was afforded the time to pick out the bottom corner from just inside the box.
Mildenhall were on the back foot for a short period after falling behind, but after regrouping they started to mount attacks and Zanone was just off target with a low shot from distance that fizzed wide.
The experienced striker made no mistake in the 62nd minute though as his free-kick from 20 yards out got the better of home goalkeeper Harry Aldridge, taking Zanone’s tally for the season to 30 goals for Takeley, Welwyn Garden City, Basildon United and now Mildenhall.
The two sides then had goals ruled out – Romford’s Michael Mignot for offside and Mildenhall substitute John Sands for a foul – as both searched for a crucial winning goal, which arrived five minutes from time.
Woodward’s effort from distance appeared to be going wide until it took a big deflection off Robson, which looped over helpless goalkeeper Jake Hayhoe and into the far corner.
And to compound Mildenhall’s misery further Butcher was then sent off in the 88th minute for a late challenge on Nathaniel Joseph.
Mildenhall: Hayhoe, Camilo-Tayaca, Atkinson (Sands 60), Butcher, T Boxer, Seymour, Robinson (P Boxer 57), Robson, Zanone, Debenham (Fernandes 68), Kouassi. Attendance: 107