NORFOLK JUNIOR CUP FINAL: Mundford 1 East Harling 0
Mundford FC completed an historic treble by claiming the Norfolk Junior Cup with a 1-0 win over a stubborn East Harling at Carrow Road.
Fresh from winning the Anglian Combination Division Two title the weekend before last, a second half header from Richard Williams was enough to see the Stags fend-off their Breckland rivals in front of a 912 strong crowd on Thursday evening (May 12).
It caps of a fantastic season for Stephen Gathercole’s men, who beat East Harling by the same scoreline to lift the Cyril Ballyn Cup in April.
However, by the time the game kicked-off under the setting sun at the home of Norwich City, that result was long forgotten.
To all extents it was a cagey start by both sides who found it difficult to get the ball down on a big pitch.
East Harling eventually started to gain control and in Kamren Senior, they had a genuine threat down the left-hand side.
His pace and skill was causing all sorts caused all sorts of problems for Mundford right-back James Miller, and a jinxing run into the box nearly saw him create the game’s first opportunity.
However, a strong tackle midway through the first half seemed to knock the wind out of Senior, and with that Mundford grew into the game.
And it was the full-back Miller who came closest to giving the Stags a first half lead, stepping past Senior with ease before firing a low shot which East Harling ‘keeper Jamie Woodcock did well to push to safety.
East Harling, and in particular Jordan Scent, were growingly increasingly frustrated as Mundford, directed by impressive centre back Ryan Sanders, seemed to be getting the rub of the green.
Spurred on by his frustration, Scent picked up the ball, strode into the Mundford half and crashed an effort just wide of the right hand post.
Half time: Mundford 0-0 East Harling.
Galvanised by the interval, it was Mundford who started the second half on the front foot.
In the opening exchanges, Craig Burton saw a lofted effort bounce off the cross bar before Roy Bland wriggled free in the box only to see his effort blocked by a last ditch tackle.
To their credit, East Harling responded and after a cleared corner was knocked back into the box, the influential Kieran Passey brought the best out of Munford ‘keeper Alex Gathercole.
Passey was beginning to pull the strings and after some good work in the middle, the ball made its way to Senior on the left, but he couldn’t work space in the area.
However, it was Mundford who took the lead, a goal their all round play had just about deserved.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, a James Walters corner was headed in at the near post by left-back Williams, sparking wild celebrations both on and off the pitch.
Stacey Lawrence’s men pushed for an equaliser, bringing on Robert Bushall, Ilia Yakov and Matthew Johnson but it was Mundford, through Sanders, who came closest to adding to the scoring.
The centre back, who soaked up everything that came at him all evening, thundered a 30 yard free-kick towards the top corner, only to see the outstretched hand of Woodcock tip it over.
With five minutes of stoppage time signalled, East Harling pushed centre back Harley Durrant forward as they searched desperately for an equaliser.
In the dying seconds, that nearly came but Jack Barnett could only find the side netting after some brave goalkeeping from Gathercole.
But a jubilant Mundford held on to claim a priceless win and complete a famous treble.
Mundford XI: Alex Gathercole, James Miller, Richard Williams, Jon Maslin, Ryan Sanders, Adam Leamon (C), James Walters, Sam Last, Ben Coe, Roy Bland & Craig Burton.
Subs: Charlie Hutt, David Weaver-Pope, Nathan Rose.
Man of the match: Ryan Sanders. The young centre back was the stand out player on the pitch, commanding his side right from the off. Winning every tackle and every header that came his way, Sanders was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with a thunderous free-kick.
East Harling XI: Jamie Woodcock, Matthew Allin, Rory Olpin, Jack Barnett, Chris Marlow, Harley Durrant (C), Kieran Passey, Jordan Scent, Oliver Ramsbotham, Andrew Morris & Camren Senior.
Subs: Robert Bushell, Ilia Yakov, Matthew Johnson.
Man of the match: Jamie Woodcock. Not afraid to come off his line, the East Harling ‘keeper did so with real conviction, snuffing out a number of Mundford attacks. Two excellent saves, especially from Ryan Sanders’ free-kick, kept his side in the game.
* See Friday’s Diss Express and Bury Free Press for post-match reaction.