NORFOLK SENIOR CUP
Harleston Town 2
Great Yarmouth Town 1
Adam Gusterson believes Saturday’s dramatic finale was just reward for the composure shown by his Harleston Town players.
After a slow start to the tie against opposition from two leagues higher, Harleston found their feet and ended up being the game’s dominant force.
Yet, they fell behind to a goal midway through the second half and looked to be heading out of the competition until late goals from Nicky Howell and substitute Kyle Downes — the latter of which was scored in the 10th minute of stoppage-time — sealed the upset.
While the result was all important, Gusterson was particularly pleased with the ‘bottle’ his side displayed to achieve it.
“It crossed my mind that it might not be our day, but I still believed at the same time,” he said.
“Full marks to the boys because we did not panic — that was the key thing.
“We kept trying what we felt we needed to do to get success in the game. That takes bottle.
“It is easy to go very direct and get the ball forward as quickly as possible, sort of absolving responsibility. We did not do that.
“Robbo (Scott Roberts) kept getting on the ball for us in midfield and the wingers wanted to get at people.
“I am delighted we have been able to turn it around because it would have been a bit of a travesty had we not been able to.”
Much of the early running was made by the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division visitors, with Sean Perfect working John Howes in the Harleston goal with a free-kick that took a deflection off the wall.
The Yarmouth winger then struck the post from distance, while Sam Applegate flashed a shot wide.
Harleston slowly started to make inroads and creative midfielder Scott Roberts will feel he should have done better after being picked out by Nathan Page in the 20th minute when he blazed over.
James Pipe went much closer after 30 minutes following good work by Nathan Russell, but his attempt was a decent height for Jack Whatmough in the Yarmouth goal.
Buoyed by their end to the half, the hosts moved through the gears after the restart as full-back Jake Imrie and Roberts both worked Whatmough.
That pressure meant there was an element of surprise when Yarmouth broke the deadlock after 63 minutes.
Mitch Forbes — the away team’s leading goalscorer this term — had only been on the pitch 10 minutes, yet the substitute showed no sign of rustiness as he clinically powered the ball home after the Harleston rearguard had failed to clear Kyle Howell’s long throw.
Now with little option but to go for broke, Harleston committed more men forward, with Downes — a scorer when Dereham beat King’s Lynn in the final five years ago — also entering the fray.
The centre-forward saw his header cleared off the line by Nick Bailey and when Matt Howard sent a header of his own over the top, the game looked to be up.
But with two minutes of the 90 remaining a spell of pinball in the Yarmouth was clinically ended as Howell fired home.
And during a confusingly long period of injury-time, Downes beat Whatmough with a low drive to send the Harleston bench and players into raptures, as well as putting his side in the last 16.
Harleston: Howes, O Willis, Imrie, Renaut (S Willis 80), Furlong, Howard, Page, Roberts, Pipe (Downes 62), Russell, Howell
Express Man of the Match: Scott Roberts
n Harleston were not the only Almary Green Anglian Combination side to cause a Norfolk Senior Cup shock, with Division One side Attleborough Town getting the better of Yarmouth’s league rivals Swaffham Town.
After the teams had played out a 3-3 draw, it was Attleborough that came out on top 4-3 in the penalty shootout.
n Harleston Under-12s suffered a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Caister Roma Centurions on Sunday.
It was Harleston that took the lead through Joe Mayhew, but Caister hit back with three goals before the break. Caister added two further goals after the restart, while Mayhew claimed a consolation.