Thurlow Nunn League round-up: First Division promotion battle hots up as top four all taste success
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The Premier Division title race may be all but over – but that's far from the case in the second tier.
Norwich United are 14 points clear at the top-flight's summit with a game in hand on their nearest rivals Godmanchester Rovers and saw off another of the chasing pack – a collective there in name but not in reality. Steve Shipley scored the winner in the 2-1 home triumph for the champions-in-waiting after Stanway Rovers, now fourth, had equalised a Matt Blake opener.
The picture looks less clear, and far more exciting, in the First Division with four teams still in with a shout of gaining promotion – and finishing top of the pile.
Swaffham Town are in control thanks to a stunning run of form that continued on Saturday when they eased to their ninth successive league win with a 3-0 success at Debenham LC. Matthew Castellan scored two and young substitute Dylan Edge the third. Long Melford, in second, did their goal difference the world of good with their 7-0 win at neighbours AFC Sudbury Reserves. Stephen Adams scored three and Jamie Griffiths two for the club that are two points behind Paul Hunt's Pedlars having played a game more.
Long-term pacesetters Saffron Walden Town, third, got back to winning ways 2-0 at basement boys Needham Market Reserves while a second-half Connor Deeks penalty was enough for Great Yarmouth Town, fourth, to see off fifth-placed Haverhill Borough 1-0. The Bloaters attracted a crowd of 110 for the 'pay what you want' game – an initiative to get more people into The Wellesley.
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Ricci Butler's top-three chasers are three points adrift of Walden having played a game less. They do have the added advantage of a superior goal difference too.
All four teams will be looking for three more points in games on Saturday against sides in the bottom half of the table while crunch fixtures come on Easter Monday with Saffron at home to Haverhill Borough and Swaffham hosting Yarmouth.
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The battle to avoid dropping into the division Melford and company are trying to get out of is also hotting up as the business end of the season becomes even more serious.
With three teams due to be relegated it is looking increasingly difficult for Ely City and Diss Town to avoid two of those places.
Ely lost 3-2 at Whitton United and need a minor miracle sitting 17 points behind fourth-from-bottom Wivenhoe with only seven matches to play. Mark Reeve's Diss picked up a more than creditable point by drawing 2-2 at home to top-half Newmarket Town.
Yet that counted for little with FC Clacton pulling two points further ahead of them thanks to a 4-1 drubbing of Fakenham Town. It was a sad end to Wayne Anderson's reign in what was his final game as the Ghosts' manager.
Clacton's recording of back-to-back triumphs have hauled them to within a point of Wivenhoe – themselves just four behind Thetford Town who lost 2-1 at home to Mildenhall Town. Diss are eight adrift of Clacton having played a game more.
The forthcoming Easter weekend looks crucial with Wivenhoe at home to Thetford and FC Clacton away to Diss. The crunch could come two days later on Easter Monday with the intriguing local derbies of Clacton against Wivenhoe and Thetford against Diss likely to prove pivotal.
Elsewhere this weekend, Dereham Town Reserves – who will be managed by departing Ghosts' chief Anderson from this morning – drew 2-2 at Cornard United. Downham Town won 2-0 against Team Bury Reserves to maintain their impressive home record.
King's Lynn Town's second string suffered a 1-0 defeat after making the short trip to March Town United.