Injury-free Matt Collins scores winning goal for Walsham-le-Willows in the FA Vase
Injuries have forced Matt Collins to miss far too much football in recent seasons, but it is nights like last Friday that make those long roads to recovery worthwhile.
Filling in as captain for the evening in the absence of Sam Peters, the midfielder scored what turned out to be the winning goal for Walsham-le-Willows as they edged a narrow Buildbase FA Vase tie 2-1 against lower-league Lakenheath.
It was a moment to savour for the 22-year-old, who last season was sidelined for four months with an ankle injury.
“I am happy to be back fit and playing regularly,” said Collins. “That is why I came here – to play each week – and Walsham have been giving me that.
“I have missed two-and-a-half seasons overall since I started playing because of injuries. It is hard, but I made sure I did all of the rehab and rest. I wanted to do everything right because it is about nights like this.
“This is the right club for me, and it was when I had my ankle injury last season, because they gave me the chance when I came back to fitness. I am really grateful for that.
“It was great to get on the scoresheet and score what ended up being the winner.”
Collins scored the second of Walsham’s two goals, the first coming courtesy of Craig Nurse in the 27th minute.
Nurse and Lakenheath defender Dean Grogan jostled for possession inside the box, with the latter eventually being penalised for a foul and up stepped the former Bury Town man to convert from the penalty spot.
Walsham continued to dominate possession as the half wore on and they eventually doubled their lead four minutes before the break.
Lakenheath wanted a free-kick for a foul on Kelvin Enaro on the right touchline but with the whistle not forthcoming, Trevor Newman’s Walsham sprung into life.
The ball was eventually worked into the Lakenheath area and when it broke free, skipper-for-the-night Collins was on hand to calmly slot the ball in from close range.
At this point the next goal was always going to be crucial. Lakenheath thought they had scored it in the 49th minute, but Avis’ free-kick from distance flew inches wide.
They did eventually slash the deficit with 75 minutes on the clock when Shaun Avis was hauled down by returning Walsham defender Karl Saffrey and the Lakenheath frontman dusted himself down to bury the penalty.
But that was the end of the Lakenheath chances and it was Walsham that went closest to scoring the game’s fourth goal with Ryan Twinn’s deflected effort from the edge of the box being smartly turned over the top by Lakenheath goalkeeper Tom Coombe, formerly of Walsham.
Newman’s side will now travel to another Thurlow Nunn League First Division North side in the next round after March Town United beat Norwich CBS 2-1 on Saturday.
The tie will be played at the Sports Ground in Cambridgeshire on Saturday, September 14.