Dereham Town have first league crown in sight as rivals slip
Dereham Town took a major step towards their first Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division title by beating Woodbridge 1-0 while their four nearest rivals were all dropping points.
The only goal at Aldiss Park came in the 58th minute when lively midfielder Adam Smith won the ball in a central position 35 yards out and strode forward before drilling in a low left foot drive which gave Tom Sills no chance.
The Magpies also hit the woodwork twice – through a header by Shaun Bammant shortly before the interval and visiting defender Liam Scope's deflection in the second half.
Matt Henman's men were relieved when Ben Miller headed Tom Trevivian's flag kick into goalkeeper Andy Wilton's arms five minutes from time as Woodbridge looked a much better side than their lowly league position might suggest.
Only after the final whistle did the Magpies know how good a result this was.
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Closest rivals Wisbech and Brantham had both dropped points in draws against Stanway (0-0) and Diss (1-1) respectively. And the teams in fourth and fifth place, Walsham-le-Willows and Gorleston, had also drawn at Emerald Park.
All of which extended the Magpies lead at the top to seven points with seven games to play – which may have some fans earmarking their home game against the Fenmen on April 23 as a potential title decider.
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Diss Town's away point at Brantham was an important one as it gave them a five-point cushion over the bottom three, almost ending their relegation fears as one of those three, Thetford Town, have only two games remaining.
But for some wasteful finishing, particularly in the early stages, the Tangerines could have been able to start celebrating on Saturday – Danny Easlea and Peter Lambert both lifting clear chances over the bar. Brantham took the lead in the 36th minute when Jose Mayhew held off a challenge in the area to shoot past Matty Webster.
But the men from Essex could do nothing about the Tangerines' equaliser as Jacob Brown thundered a pin-point drive into the top corner from fully 35 yards. Diss will assure their safety on Saturday if they can beat second-bottom Wivenhoe at Brewers Green Lane.
The turning point in Gorleston's home tussle with Walsham-le-Willows was when Jack Marsden was controversially sent off two minutes before the interval. Until then the Greens had looked the most likely winners.
Thetford's 3-1 defeat to Hadleigh in their last home game of the season virtually sealed their return to Division One.
Norwich United drew 2-2 at Haverhill. The Planters came from behind to lead with goals from Jordan Blyth and Nathan Howard break but Haverhill equalised late on. Kirkley & Pakefield had a day to forget, losing 4-0 at home to Ely.