Harleston defeated on spot kicks

ON TARGET: Nathan Russell scored for Harleston on Monday night
ON TARGET: Nathan Russell scored for Harleston on Monday night

DON FROST CUP FINAL

Harleston Town 2

Mulbarton Wanderers 2

(Mulbarton won 9-8 on pens)

Penalty shoot-outs at the Football Development Centre (FDC) on the outskirts of Norwich and Harleston Town do not mix well.

In March, Adam Gusteron’s side were denied a place in the Norfolk FA Senior Cup final by Fakenham, who kept their nerve from 12 yards out to win 5-4 on spot kicks at the neutral venue.

And it was a similar story for Harleston during Monday’s Hadley & Ottaway Anglian Combination annual season curtain raiser at the same ground, eventually losing out 9-8 to Mulbarton Wanderers after the two sides had played out a 2-2 draw.

The opponents, who met on four occasions in league and cup last term, were evenly matched in the opening stages with the game starting at a high tempo.

It was Harleston that broke the deadlock midway through the first half when left-back Sam Grady — recently signed from North Walsham — spotted Mulbarton goalkeeper Tom Wright off his line and he duly chipped the ball into the back of the net.

Moments later Wright tipped Scott Roberts’ effort onto the crossbar, before Mulbarton levelled up proceedings.

Eliot Altay was the scorer, producing a powerful shot that left Harleston goalkeeper Nathan Pauling helpless.

However, Harleston regained the lead four minutes before the break when Nathan Russell turned home a corner from Roberts.

Mulbarton were dominant after the restart and their pressure was rewarded just over 10 minutes from time when danger-man Ben Thompson made no mistake with a low finish into the bottom corner.

There was also more drama to come before the final whistle when Mulbarton’s Hayden Gibbons was handed his marching orders for a second bookable offence.

But Mulbarton held on, forcing the match into penalties and they came out on top thanks to a strike from their goalkeeper Wright, who fired in a sudden death winner after Grady’s attempt cannoned off the underside of the crossbar.

Harleston, who finished second last season, begin their new league campaign at home to Wroxham Reserves tomorrow (2.3pm), followed by a trip to Beccles Town on Tuesday (7.30pm).