Newmarket, Mildenhall eye up derby final
Just 90 minutes separates neighbours Newmarket Town and Mildenhall Town from a Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup final clash in early May.
The rivals are both due in semi-final action on Tuesday, with Newmarket set to make the long trip to Gorleston, while Mildenhall host Haverhill Rovers (both 7.45pm).
The two sides are no strangers to recent success in the competition after The Jockeys triumphed in 2014, before Hall defeated Norwich United last year to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
However, if his side are to repeat their feat of three years ago, Newmarket boss Kevin Grainger has admitted they will have to overcome ‘the worst possible draw’.
Grainger’s men have done well against their hosts, claiming a 1-1 draw at Emerald Park and then dishing out an 8-2 thrashing during the recent Ridgeons Stadium reverse fixture.
That remains just one of two defeats Gorleston have suffered in the league, though, with neither of those coming at home.
It highlights the size of the task facing Newmarket, who will be forced to battle through the rush hour traffic in order to arrive on the Norfolk coast in time.
“It is the worst possible draw for us. If we had drawn Gorleston at home, not a problem, but it is all the travelling involved,” said Grainger.
“Some of my lads are up at half 5 working. They then have to get across to Gorleston and play in a high intensity semi-final.
“That is a tough ask, but this is cup football and you never know.
“I back my players because on their day we can give anyone a decent game.”
Centre-back Charlie Bowen will return from suspension for the tie, but Grainger will be without the unavailable James Chivers and James Seymour.
Meanwhile, Mildenhall prepare to host Haverhill on the back of a four-match winless league run prior to Saturday’s game at Saffron Walden Town.
Captain and defender Luke Butcher’s broken jaw has not helped matters, but Dean Greygoose’s league-leading team are also enduring problems in front of goal, having scored just three times in all competitions since the 3-2 win over Godmanchester Rovers on January 21.
And if they are to reach the final for a second successive campaign, Greygoose is well aware that his players need to rediscover the clinical touch.
“We need a scruffy goal or two just to help us get back on track,” he said.
“It is the wrong time for four or five of our attacking players to have lost their touch in front of goal.
“It will come, I am confident of that. The players are too good for this to keep continuing.
“The lads just need to start relaxing in front of goal like they were earlier in the season.”
Mildenhall, who have beaten Haverhill twice already this term, will be without the suspended Chris Bacon.