It’s not often I get to sample Friday night football, probably once a season if I’m lucky. A lot may wonder why I headed so far from Littlehampton to Norfolk to watch a game so here it is.
As a kid all of my holidays until I was a teenager were spent in East Anglia and mostly around Wroxham. Sometimes it was a boat, sometimes on land and I got taken to watch the Yachtsmen and Great Yarmouth as well. Over the years as I do with ex Barnet players I take notice and watch what goes on.
The Yachtsmen have always been one of the better sides at Step 5 in the area and have won the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League eight times, twice winning it three years in a row in the 1990’s.
In 2011 they finally took the plunge and accepted promotion to the Isthmian League North Division and I think it’s fair to say the club didn’t have the best of times and were eventually relegated back to the Eastern Counties in 2017. My late father always wanted to see them in action in a higher league, unfortunately he didn’t get that chance, I luckily did twice before this evening.
Being located just down the road from Norwich City it’s probably no surprise there is a yellow and green connection in the Wroxham ranks and not just one for two.
The ex-Premier League striker in Grant Holt has turned out for the past two years adding vast and valuable experience to the side, Chris Sutton’s son Ollie is the Yachtsmen’s keeper and also captain whilst son of Darren Huckerby Tom is currently out injured, if memory serves me correctly Chris had a short spell at Trafford Park after his professional career ended mainly turning out for the reserve side.
Holt started ‘El Broadico’ at centre half, replacing the injured Huckerby junior and in front of a sizeable crowd of 392 on a cold, crispy Norfolk evening the hosts saw the majority of the early ball, the visitors working hard to press as high up the pitch as they can.
The home side prior to last weekend had gone five weeks without kicking a ball due to the league calling off all games over Xmas and New Year followed by waterlogged pitches putting paid to action.
This game saw them complete their third game in seven days and understandably passes were a bit wayward and judging by the locals beside me the energy wasn’t quite there as it usually was.
Ryan Miles and Brad Spooner down both flanks looked to make things happen early on but balls into the box evaded the Wroxham forwards and nothing much of note to trouble Ryan Dickerson.
It was the visitors who were close to taking the lead on 21 minutes Alby Matthews fierce shot only just clearing Sutton’s crossbar, the striker a willing runner all evening and working hard to press Holt and Chris Skipper.
With the home side making all the running to create a goal it was a surprise that the visitors opened the scoring. Kyle Richardson put the ball in the net just after the half hour mark from a well worked move involving two or three interplays of passing.
The home side were certainly a little taken aback and a heated altercation between the home dugout and the referee resulted in a yellow card for the one of the Yachtsmen coaching staff, the man in the middle at times seemingly a little lost throughout the game with some strange decisions being made.
The home side however couldn’t find a breakthrough and Norwich Utd held the lead going into the half time interval and the Yachtsmen needing something different in the second half.
They did come out with some more intensity and certainly pushed the game forward but at the same time allowed the visitors chances to put the game out of reach, Matthews blazing wildly over and Skipper denying the same player with a superb sliding tackle, substitute Liam Jackson also should have had a second for the visitors.
Holt blazed over early on from a flicked free kick whilst Dickerson saved well from a Harley Black free kick as the home side went in search of an equaliser. The game changed on the back of two substitutions from Wroxham’s Jordan Southgate. With around seven minutes to play a corner from Black was flicked on and Callum Olpin who hadn’t been on the field long was in the right place to net the equaliser.
The Yachtsmen then found some legs to push for a winner, and it duly came in the 90th minute, a contentious penalty awarded after the assistant flagged for a foul inside the area on Ryan Curtis.
Mac Gee was sent off the visitors presumably for something he said to the referee over the award of the spot kick and after much waiting fellow substitute Matty Hayden slammed the ball past Dickerson to put the home side in the lead.
There was just enough time for the game to re-start as the Yachtsmen took the three points at the end of a gruelling week after so much time without any action. With rivals for the title Gorleston losing it capped a great night for the home side who are now just two points of the top of the table with two games in hand on those mentioned above and four games in hand on Mildenhall.
Great to meet Lee Robson the Wroxham chairman, we spoke during the first lockdown for this blog and his hospitality all evening was top drawer, nothing was too much trouble.
Good to also meet Adrian Gowling who looks after the media stuff at Trafford Park and also to get introduced to Adam Drury, another with Norwich connections and assistant manager at the club.
I also met some Kings Lynn fans in the second half ahead of their Saturday trip to Boreham Wood, shared a few National League stories and predictions between us.
So, two out of four games in seven days completed, onto Barnet vs Stockport County, from one end of the pyramid to the other.
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