Robins reliant on final day victory
RIDGEONS FIRST DIVISION Ely City 1 Hadleigh United 3 NERVES got the better of the Ely players in a shocking first-half display that saw their backline fall apart and creative players unable to make an impact. The Robins were desperately missing the leader
RIDGEONS FIRST DIVISION
Ely City 1 Hadleigh United 3
NERVES got the better of the Ely players in a shocking first-half display that saw their backline fall apart and creative players unable to make an impact.
The Robins were desperately missing the leadership of centre-back Brady Stone, out with a hand injury, and, for 45 minutes, left-back Jamie Thurlbourne was the only Ely player posing a threat.
Ely skipper Andy Chatters almost curled a corner straight into the net in the 12th minute, but the visitors went ahead seven minutes later when goalkeeper Tim Catley spilled a cross from the left and the ball was cut back for Simon Gresham to stab home from six yards.
After a slick one-two with David Smith in the 22nd minute, Thurlbourne fired just wide from the edge of the box, and then rifled a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards after a driving run, eight minutes later.
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The visitors doubled their lead 10 minutes before the interval. The Ely backline completely misjudged the offside trap, from a long, diagonal free-kick and Craig Payne ran in unopposed to score.
City responded with a host of attacks in the second half, and after several goalmouth scrambles Simon Warren headed just over the bar.
Dean Blackman pulled a goal back after an hour by smashing a 25-yard half-volley into the bottom right corner after a loose clearance.
Robbie Mason came off the bench as City played with three up front, and they continued to create pressure, but on a rock-hard pitch and in energy-sapping heat, they just couldn't find a way through.
Frustration got the better of Blackman in the 80th minute. When challenging for the ball, he smashed his arm into an opponent's face, sparking a furious melee, and resulting in his sending off.
And Ely's misery was compounded in the final minute when Ross Myhill skilfully beat Vinnie Long and slipped the ball through for Gresham to knock in his second goal from close range.
Ely boss Dennis Lightning said: "It's disappointing because if we had won we would have had a shot at the title. But Long Melford have won just seven games this season and conceded 100 goals, so if we can't finish the job on Saturday, then something is seriously wrong.