March Town mark long-awaited step five return with opening day defeat

Jack Friend in action for March Town

Jack Friend spurned key chances for March Town in their opening league defeat to Hadleigh United. - Credit: Steve Hone

March Town were unable to mark their first Eastern Counties League Premier Division match in 24 years with victory today (Saturday) after opening day defeat.

The Hares fought throughout against a stubborn Hadleigh United in their step five opener at the GER.

But two moments of quality in the second half proved costly for a team that were lacking that usual killer instinct in front of a buoyant crowd.

Hares boss Arran Duke was pleased with his side’s display in a match filled with tension, despite the result.

“We weren’t unprepared for how Hadleigh were going to come out,” he said.

“There was always going to be a sense of anxiety but I didn’t think it affected us too much.

“They had chances and we did too, but on the whole, I was pleased with the performance.”

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It took until after half-time for March to probe their visitors with neither side able to earn a foothold in the game.

Striker Jack Friend saw clear chances spurned, including in stoppage time, while Josh Burrows also missed from close range.

But after Hadleigh, who hit a post in the first half, scored thanks to Josh Cheetham’s 75th minute screamer, they ensured the points thanks to Sam Sharp’s late strike.

“It was a fantastic goal for them and worthy of winning any game,” Duke admitted.

“They’ve been in and around step five for a while and have had some good pre-season results.

“I don’t think anyone dominated the game for long periods, but they probably had the better chances and they’ve taken them.”

March Town boss Arran Duke instructing his team

March Town boss Arran Duke was encouraged by his side's performance in their first Eastern Counties League Premier Division match since 1997. - Credit: Steve Hone

March were without talisman Max Mattless owing to a hamstring injury, while Jack Saunders was an unused substitute after recently coming out of self-isolation.

But Duke is adamant not to use key player absences as an excuse as he prepares to rally his men for their next home league game against Lakenheath on August 3, 7.45pm.

“I believe in every player; any one of them could have started today,” he said.

“It’s going to take time to settle, but we’re in the right ball park for where we need to be.

“They’ve not been outplayed, which is all we ask for at this early stage.

“I know it will happen for us. We’ve got the quality and it’s very encouraging going forwards.”

March Town: Simon Dalton; Drew Barker, Jamie Short, Dean Miller, Sam Garner, Lewis Gibson (sub George Rayner, 66’), Danny Emmington (C), Josh Burrows (sub Jack Rawson, 85’), Brody Warren (sub Jack Frohawk, 76’), Jack Friend, Craig Gillies.

Unused subs: Kyle Liddy, Jack Saunders.

Cautions: None.

Referee: Mr Stefan Lewis.

Attendance: 156.