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Champions 2015

CHAMPIONS

A look back at the 2015 title winners

On this day five years ago (25th April 2015), the club won the Thurlow Nunn First Division title and were promoted as Champions. 

Andy Cussans looks back on a memorable day and historic 2014/15 season.

I can’t remember the exact scenario, but I think Melford needed a point to be certain of winning the League. Even a defeat would be okay if 2nd-placed Swaffham Town didn’t win by a huge margin. 

So the odds were firmly in Melford’s favour, but there were still a few pre-match nerves around Stoneylands. 

There was a much bigger than usual crowd of around 300 on a hot, sunny day. Downham Town were the visitors and they were in good form, so a tough game was expected. 

After a nervy first few minutes, an early goal by Steve Adams calmed things down and when Jamie Griffiths curled in a free-kick before half-time, the champagne (or sparkling wine) could be put on ice. 

The second half was really a victory parade, as realistically the title couldn’t be lost from this position. 

Jack Durey scored two well-taken goals and the game ended in a 4-0 win, followed by the medals and trophy presentation. 

It was a magical moment and a rags to riches story, after spending most of the previous decade struggling towards the bottom of the league. 

The obvious question is how did the team go from perennial strugglers to Champions? 

It was a more gradual improvement than perhaps it looks on paper. During the previous two seasons under new manager Jules Mumford the team had made steady progress, maybe not setting the world alight but becoming harder to beat. 

Any thoughts of promotion or winning the title would have seemed unlikely at that stage. But you could see a nucleus of a successful squad starting to emerge in the 2013/14 season. 

Already at the club were the likes of Sam Mansfield, Ross Waugh, Ashley Skeggs, Sam Bayliss, Will Wingfield, Nathan Rowe and Jack Durey. 

In the summer of 2014, Steve Adams, Steve Chisholm, Andy Fisher and Dan Statham all returned, while Jamie Griffiths, Dan Swain, Jake Jackson and Dan Smith also came in during pre-season – all local players who brought more quality and competition for places.

And not long into the new season, Anthony Waugh joined to further bolster the defence, while the experienced Darren Moyes also arrived to share goalkeeping duties with Sam Mansfield. 

The new arrivals, mixed in with a good group of players already at the club, formed a formidable squad. 

The Villagers got off to a flying start, something that had happened at Melford before in recent years but had always proved to be a false dawn. 

This time it felt different and a match that stands out in the memory is a 4-1 home win against Halstead Town, I think it was around September. 

Halstead were a side who had given us lots of thrashings over the years, so it was nice to beat them so convincingly - and it proved the good start to the season was more than a flash in the pan. 

The supporters were applauding the players off, something that had not really happened before. 

There were setbacks along the way, including being knocked out of three cups in a week. Although ironically that probably helped with the title chase.

And Halstead gained revenge with a 2-0 defeat at Rosemary Lane in November, but that was to be the Villagers’ last defeat of the season. 

The turning point in the title race came at home to Saffron Walden in January. Walden were favourites to the win the league and cruised into a 3-0 lead at half-time. It felt like the title race was all but over. 

But somehow Melford fought back to draw 3-3, equalising deep into stoppage time. 

After this match Walden went off the boil losing their next few games, while Melford went on a long winning run to finish as champions.

Sometimes a draw can be worth so much more than just a point, that was certainly the case on that January afternoon when Ross Waugh bundled in the last minute equaliser. 

Melford played a lot of entertaining attacking football that season and the goals flowed freely. 

Jamie Griffiths (25), Jack Durey (14), Steve Adams (12) all reached double figures, while Nathan Rowe (8), Sam Bayliss (7), Sean Bartlett (7) and Dan Swain (6) were also regular scorers. 

On other days when not at their best Melford could still grind out results, such as the 1-0 wins against Cornard and Leiston Reserves during the run-in.  Not good performances but momentum can get you through games like that, you find a way to win even when not playing well. 

Sometimes that season Melford were labelled by some a ‘one man team’, which is perhaps inevitable when you have a player as good as Griff. 

But the stats don’t back that up, results without Griff in the starting line-up were still excellent (3-2 at King’s Lynn, 4-0 at March, 4-1 v Halstead, 3-0 at Woodbridge etc). 

So the truth is while Griff made a massive impact, to win a league you need a strong all round squad, which we certainly had at Melford that year. 

There was also luck with injuries, which every team needs. There were a few long term injuries but most of the squad got through the whole campaign with only minor knocks and sprains. 

Influential signings in the second half of the season also made a difference, adding extra quality and competition for places at a crucial stage in the title race. 

Ashley Sloots joined around Christmas and was outstanding at left back, Jamie Clark signed around the same time and was a strong presence in midfield, while Sean Bartlett came in on loan and made an instant impact scoring 7 goals in 8 games. 

Looking back, everything came together at the right time. Jules Mumford and his management team of Nik Guyon (assistant manager), Glenn Eldridge (coach) and Brian Dunster (physio) did a fantastic job with a special group of players who all contributed to winning the title. 

There was a good team spirit, goals from all areas of the pitch and as mentioned before, a little bit of luck on the injury front. 

Most of the title-winning squad are still at the club 5 years later and added the League Cup to the club’s honours list last year, under the management of Jamie Bradbury who replaced Jules in 2017.

League & Cup Appearances 2014/15 (includes as sub):

Steve Adams 34, Shane Barnes 2, Sean Bartlett 8, Sam Bayliss 34, Alfie Brindle 7, Steve Chisholm 20, Jamie Clark 13, Wesley Doyle 1, Jack Durey 39, Andy Fisher 24, Harry Fryer 5, Evan Gartland 2, Jamie Griffiths 33, Chaise Guyon 5, Cobi Guyon 5, Darryl Guyon 1, Glen Harris 3, Joe Harvey 10, Liam Hastie 2, Jake Jackson 15, Harry Liskus 3, Sam Mansfield 32, Chris McMahon 2, Darren Moyes 8, Michael Owen 3, Nathan Rowe 35, Deklyn Roy 1, Ashley Skeggs 20, Ashley Sloots 15, Scott Sloots 2, Dan Smith 11, Dan Statham 17, Dan Swain 37, Danny Twyman 3, Anthony Waugh 36, Ross Waugh 39, Will Wingfield 14

League & Cup Goals 2014/15

Jamie Griffiths 25, Jack Durey 14, Steve Adams 12, Nathan Rowe 8, Sean Bartlett 7, Sam Bayliss 7, Dan Swain 6, Andy Fisher 4, Jamie Clark 3, Dan Statham 3, Will Wingfield 3, Harry Fryer 2, Ashley Skeggs 2, Ashley Sloots 2, Ross Waugh 2, Alfie Brindle 1, Steve Chisholm 1, Dan Smith 1

Supporters' Player: Jamie Griffiths

Players' Player: Dan Swain

Manager's Player: Jamie Griffiths

Young Player: Sam Bayliss

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