Jordan Foster hat-trick helps Ely City to beat Mildenhall Town in early-season Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division derby
The new campaign may be very much in its infancy, but if Tuesday night’s 3-1 derby win over Mildenhall Town is anything to go by, manager Brady Stone’s pre-season message has already got through to his Ely City players.
After the struggles of 2018/19, Stone had called for a back to basics approach ahead of the new Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division term getting under way.
He wanted his men to become tough to beat again, a side that fought for each other and one that posed a threat going forward.
And, having won 2-1 at Gorleston in the season curtain-raiser on Saturday, the Robins followed their boss’ request to the letter to get the better of their visitors on Tuesday.
Recent arrival Jordan Foster was the hero with his hat-trick – coming after Jack Brame had fired Mildenhall in front – but it was the collective effort that pleased Stone.
“We knew they would have a lot of the ball and during the first half-an-hour we were a little disjointed, trying to chase the ball too much,” he said.
“But other than the goal, they never really hurt us so we regrouped. The lads knew they had to be disciplined and ruthless in attack, which we were.
“We have a great group and the team spirit is fantastic – I would take those lads over a lot of others any day of the week.
“They love playing football. If they can work like that and perform like that most weeks, there is no reason why we cannot have a good season.
“They have shown a real confidence and an arrogance – in a good way – which is pleasing. Fossy (Foster) had a great season for Shelford last year. He took his goals really well, he will get all of the plaudits and deservedly so, but it was a team effort.”
Mildenhall – beaten 1-0 at Brantham Athletic on Saturday – started brightly at the newly-sponsored Demcom Stadium, though the final ball let them down too frequently.
However, they did eventually get it right in the 24th minute when Brame, who scored more than 20 goals for Walsham-le-Willows last season, opened his account in a Mildenhall shirt.
Alex Steed was the architect, swinging in a cross from the right for the forward, who found enough space between three Ely defenders to volley home from close range.
The goal sparked a period of domination from the away team as Tommy Robinson stung Ely goalkeeper Harry Reynolds’ palms with a low drive while Joe Asensi drifted a free-kick just wide of the far post.
A second Mildenhall goal would have made things difficult for Ely, but they weathered the mini storm and in the 34th minute – almost out of nothing – they got themselves level.
Mildenhall lost possession inside their own half and Stone’s side sprung into action, with Foster going through to round Mildenhall goalkeeper Jake Hayhoe and roll the ball into an empty net.
And within 60 seconds Ely almost had a second after Matt Simpson broke into the box unchallenged, but there was nobody rushing in to apply the finishing touch to his fizzed cross.
The two teams traded chances at the start of the second half with Brame seeing his low shot turned away by Reynolds, and Hayhoe getting across his line to thwart Ryan Harnwell’s dipping free-kick from distance.
Yet, Hayhoe is likely to have been disappointed by the manner in which Ely got their noses in front for the first time, in the 65th minute.
Afforded plenty of space 20 yards from goal, Foster took aim with a shot that bounced awkwardly in front of the Mildenhall number one. He nevertheless managed to get both hands on the ball, but it looped up and bounced into the net before he could retrieve the situation.
Kaine Manels’ smart volley – tipped over by Reynolds – was as close as Mildenhall got to getting themselves back into the contest, which was put out of their reach with 15 minutes remaining as Foster completed his trio.
Picking up possession on halfway, the winger drove forward before playing in Luke Crisp. Hayhoe rushed out to block the substitute’s effort, but Foster continued his run, picked up the loose ball and shot beyond Steed on the line.
Mildenhall assistant Colin Vowden, who was in charge of the team in the absence of manager Ricky Cornish, said: “The first half was not bad and when we scored I thought we would kick on.
“We warned the boys that Ely do the ugly stuff very well and we conceded two goals from that.
“We did not defend well enough as a team in the second half. It is a young team with some experienced heads – we need to improve quickly.”
Ely: Reynolds, Capel, Alsop, Walter, Williams, Brannan, Foster (Johnson), Batten, Harnwell (Reed), Holder, Simpson (Crisp).
Mildenhall: Hayhoe, Steed, Asensi, Butcher, Weavers, Phillips, Chaplin, Turner (Nolan), Brame, Manels, Robinson.
Attendance: 204. Journal Man of the Match – Jordan Foster