Whittlesey Athletic mark moment of history with opening day delight
- Credit: Daniel Mason
Whittlesey Athletic began a new chapter in their history with victory in the Eastern Counties League thanks to a determined display.
A second-half strike from James Hill-Seekings helped Whittlesey edge past Great Yarmouth Town 1-0 in a tight First Division North encounter at Feldale on Saturday.
It was the first time Ricky Hailstone’s men had played in the league, and a game which he felt there was little to separate the teams.
“It was a dogged display; we took our chance, they missed some good chances and never really threatened too much, but it was an even game,” he said.
“We rode our luck at times, but we had a good 25 minutes in the first half and got on top.
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“Their goalkeeper made one save first half and one second half, so neither team worked the goalkeepers enough.”
Whittlesey were made to work for their win having resisted a barrage of pressure from Yarmouth, who not long ago were playing two levels above their hosts.
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Player-boss Hailstone believes the result has spoken volumes of his side’s progress on the pitch, despite not completing a full season since returning to step six in 2019.
“I think it shows we’ve come far with some character, but without riding our luck a couple of times, we might have lost,” he said.
“On a performance note, there was nothing in the two sides so maybe it does show we’ve come a long way.
“We’ve been at step six but haven’t completed a season; we’re still new to this, so staying in the league is what we want.”
Hailstone has helped build a new clubhouse at the ground, which opened to the public on Saturday.
New players have also arrived to the club, including midfielder Joe Moore-Papworth, Liam Hatfield and forward Harry Whittington, who shone in the opening day win.
It is another progressive step by Whittlesey, having linked forces with the town’s junior football club while also installing new floodlights and pitch improvements.
Athletic welcome Downham Town tonight, 7.45pm, before hosting Diss Town this Saturday as the Fenland side aim to continue playing to their strengths.
“For the last three years, we’ve had fearlessness,” said Hailstone.
“We don’t go into a game thinking what they’re going to do. We’ll go our way and if our way doesn’t work, we’ll get beat.
“I prefer to do that than I would fearing teams and let them worry about what we’re doing.”
Whittlesey Athletic: Elliott Gale; Ricky Hailstone (sub Rikki Wilmer, 76’), Ollie Long, Jake Pell, Lewis Cook, Joe Moore-Papworth, Dan Redhead (sub Lewis Saunders, 86’), Harry Jenkins (C), Jack Carter, James Hill-Seekings, Harry Whittington (sub Liam Hatfield, 70’).
Unused subs: Matt Heron, Kieran Hibbins.
Cautions: Whittlesey Athletic – Hill-Seekings, Moore-Papworth, Hatfield.
Referee: Mr Joseph Karram.