Saturday's local football round-up: Lewis Whitehead scores a hat-trick on Newmarket Town return while Haverhill Rovers battle back for unlikely draw
The returning Lewis Whitehead made an instant impact for Newmarket Town in their Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division encounter at home against Framlingham Town this afternoon, with the striker helping himself to a hat-trick in an 8-1 victory.
Whitehead, who rejoined the club earlier this week from higher-league Cambridge City, found the net 50 times in two seasons for the Jockeys prior to his 2018 summer departure.
And he showed that he has not lost the clinical touch in Newmarket's colours, while Sam Gomarsall also helped himself to three goals as bottom-of-the-table Framlingham were put to the sword at the Bloorie.com Stadium.
Ben Robinson also bagged his first goal for Newmarket since his recent arrival from Cambridge City, with substitute Shaun Avis also getting in on the act.
The positive result has moved Michael Shinn's team up to ninth in the table, but for the visiting Castlemen relegation is currently looking more inevitable by the week. They remain rooted to the foot of the table, 11 points from safety.
One place below Newmarket are Haverhill Rovers after they claimed a remarkable point from their home encounter against Gorleston. The visitors from the Norfolk coast looked to be cruising to victory at half-time having scored three goals without a response.
However, hosting Rovers rallied in the second half and managed to salvage any unlikely share of the spoils thanks to a brace from Sam Goode and player-manager Marc Abbott's converted penalty.
Elsewhere, Hadleigh United – in front of new boss Christian Appleford – gave their survival chances a big shot in the arm with a 2-0 home win over Long Melford.
Both goals came within the opening 23 minutes through Kyle Cassell and Kieron Turner, sealing a result that moved the Brettsiders out of the relegation zone. It has also moved out-of-form Melford closer towards danger with just four points now between the Villagers and the drop zone.
George Bugg was among the goals as Walsham-le-Willows recorded an impressive 2-2 draw from their trip to league-leading Godmanchester Rovers, while Stowmarket Town failed to capitalise on both of those sides dropping points (and second-placed Histon) by drawing 0-0 at Brantham Athletic.
Stow are five points adrift of Godmanchester having played a game more, while Walsham are two places and a point further back.
Down the bottom Ely City are looking nervously over their shoulder after their 3-0 defeat at home to Wroxham has left them just three points above the bottom two, with the sides around them all having games in hand.
Thetford Town, meanwhile, were off Premier Division duty this weekend and instead headed to lower-league Wymondham Town in the quarter-finals of the Norfolk Senior Cup.
The Brecklanders lost this tie 12 months ago, but there was no upset on this occasion as they marched into the semi-finals – and moved a step closer to a Carrow Road final – thanks to a resounding 5-0 victory.
Robbie Priddle was the hero for Thetford with a hat-trick, which was accompanied by goals from Valter Rocha and Elliot Smith.
In the Bostik League North Division, Soham Town Rangers continue to haul themselves clear of relegation danger after they won 3-0 on the road at Tilbury.
Keeping up with the hat-trick theme, Sam Mulready scored all of the goals for the Greens, who have moved up a place to 16th and are now seven points clear of the relegation zone following a run of collecting 12 points from the last 18 on offer – only three teams have collected more during that time.
Next up for Soham is a local derby at Mildenhall Town, who remain out of the bottom two on goal difference following their late 1-0 defeat at home to Basildon United.
Rhys Fatt secured the points for the visitors deep into stoppage time, with Mildenhall down to 10 men at that point after striker Tom Debenham had been stretchered off and all of the substitutes already used.
Towards the top end of the table Bury Town gained more ground on the play-off places following their 4-0 win at relegation-threatened Romford.
Cemal Ramadan scored in either half for the Blues, with the two Ryans – Jolland and Horne – also in target to move sixth-placed Bury to within four points of Coggeshall Town in fifth, albeit having played a game more than the Essex side.
There was not such positive news for AFC Sudbury, though, as they went down to a 2-0 defeat at third-placed Heybridge Swifts. Luke Wilson and Kreshnic Krasniqi scored the goals for the hosts that leaves Sudbury in seventh, six points behind Coggeshall.
Also dropping further adrift of the play-off places are Needham Market after they were beaten 1-0 at home by St Neots Town in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central.
Former Bury player Russell Short scored the only goal of the game at Bloomfields, which leaves the Marketmen ninth in the table and five points behind Alvechurch in fifth.
In the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North, seventh-placed Lakenheath reached the 40-point mark courtesy of their 3-0 home triumph at the expense of Wisbech St Mary.
Dean Grogan got things rolling by breaking the deadlock after just two minutes, with Ryan Weaver and James McCabe completing the job and ensuring that their side remain unbeaten in 2019.
Debenham LC shared four goals evenly at home against Felixstowe & Walton United Reserves, while under the lights on Friday evening Cornard United extended their unbeaten run to five matches with a 1-0 win at AFC Sudbury Reserves and basement side Needham Market Reserves picked up a 0-0 draw from their trip to Fakenham Town.
There was also an important win for Halstead Town in the First Division South on Friday as they halted Harwich & Parkeston's 12-game winning sequnce.
Goals from Kane Munday and Callum Vincent sealed the 2-0 victory for the Humbugs, who are now second and just three points behind leaders Hashtag United with a game in hand.
* For reaction to all of these matches, plus a look ahead at what is to come next weekend, see this week's print editions.