Fakenham Town join King’s Lynn Town in the final of the Norfolk Senior Cup at Carrow Road on 22 May after beating Harleston Town 5-4 on penalties.
After an action packed first semi-final between King’s Lynn Town and Norwich United, the match between Harleston Town and Fakenham Town had plenty to live up to, but it certainly didn't disappoint. With both sides performing well in league football (Harleston 1st, Fakenham 12th. in their respective leagues), this tie was perfectly set up to replicate the excitement of the first semi-final.
On a clear night, Harleston kicked off this much hyped fixture. And it was Fakenham who began the game on the attack, with Joel Glover heading just wide from 12 yards inside the first minute. Harleston soon grew into the game, Oliver Willis and Nicky Howell combining well early on down the right flank.
Fakenham were slightly more dominant in the first 15 minutes, which saw Ashley Jarvis go close from a free kick. The game was becoming more end to end, however as Nicky Howell brought the ball down out of the sky, he managed to find Oliver Willis, who volleyed into the side netting from the edge of the area.
The game became very even as Harleston grew into the affair, Scott Roberts forcing a save from Rix in the Fakenham goal with a well controlled volley from 20 yards. The midfielder went close 2 minutes later, this time a 30 yard dipping effort just clearing the crossbar.
Fakenham’s left midfielder, George Abbott, received his first sanction of the game in the 30th minute with a challenge of frustration after losing the ball. Harleston continued to apply pressure with Nathan Page having an attempt deflected, which came close to looping over the Fakenham keeper.
With just 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Harleston right back Oliver Willis became the second name in the book with a late challenge. Six minutes later, an explosive run from winger Nathan Russell forced a corner from that set-piece, the deadlock was broken. A great delivery found its way to the back post where Nathan Russell drilled home from 6 yards to give Adam Gusterson’s men the advantage at the half time break.
HALF TIME: Harleston Town 1-0 Fakenham Town
Fakenham came out at the beginning of the second half hot - perhaps too hot. A rush of blood saw George Abbott lunge in late after mis-controlling the ball. The referee reached for his back pocket and the Fakenham No.11 was off for a second bookable offence.
Fakenham, despite the 1 man disadvantage, were still proving strong competitors as they continued to work towards an equaliser. Nicky Howell became the next name into the referee’s book as he mistimed an attempted clearance, catching the player instead.
Off the resulting free kick, Fakenham were level! A delicious delivery found Ashley Jarvis, who turned the ball home from no more than six yards. This sparked some life into the Ghosts as they searched for a winner, Joel Glover working hard in the lone striker role.
Sam Garner of Fakenham was next to find himself in the book with 5 minutes remaining, with a rash challenge on Sam Willis. Despite a late Harleston surge, a second game in as many days went to extra time as the sides couldn't be split.
FULL TIME: Harleston Town 1-1 Fakenham Town
Harleston began the first half of extra time strong, goalscorer Nathan Russell going close with a header. Good play down the right between Hitch and Howell saw the Harleston captain cut inside and fizz a shot inches wide. It seemed only a matter of time before the extra man really counted. A fizzed corner from Scott Roberts ricocheted off a Fakenham town player and crashed against the post only to end up in Tom Rix’s hands in the Fakenham goal. But at the end of the first half of extra time, the score remained 1-1.
The second half saw one of the best goal mouth scrambles football has ever seen. Hitch was first to stop the ball on the goal line from a Plumb strike, but the ball fell twice to Glover 3 yards out, where keeper Shannon twice clawed the ball off of the line. Unbelievable scenes!
5 minutes later, Harleston came close to booking their place at Carrow Road in dramatic style. Despite the late push for a winner from Harleston, yet again the semi final of a Senior Cup couldn't be decided without the need for penalties.
FULL TIME EXTRA TIME: Harleston Town 1-1 Fakenham Town
- Furlong stepped up first for Harleston, squeezing the ball into the corner.
- Plumb then responded in fine fashion from the spot.
- Page and Glover converted casually to make the shoot-out 2-2.
That is where Roberts stepped up for Harleston, only to see his penalty incredibly saved by Rix, low to the keepers right.
- Dye gave Fakenham the advantage with their 3rd penalty of the shootout.
Successful spotkicks from Burke, Youngs and Delaney left Matthew Franks with the chance to send Fakenham straight to Carrow Road. The player instead side footed the ball high and wide to send the shoot out to sudden death.
- Captain Howell stepped up, who had been brilliant all game, only to see his penalty tamely nestle into the keepers arms.
Gilchrist therefore stepped up with the chance to seal the game and that's just what the defender did. Composed as ever, he slotted the ball to the ‘keepers right, sending him the wrong way to book the Ghosts’ ticket in the Norfolk Senior Cup Final to cap off another great night of football at the Field of Dreams.
Fakenham Town win 5-4 on penalties (1-1 AET)
Written by Owen Page.
Harleston Town: Shannon; O. Willis, Furlong, Howard, Burke; Howell (C), Page, Roberts, N. Russell, S. Willis; Blyth. Subs: Bliss, Delaney, Hitch, Passey, C. Russell.
Fakenham Town: Rix; Gilchrist, Youngs, Harvey (C), St. Garner; Sa. Garner, Dye, Franks, Abbott; Glover, Jarvis. Subs: Williams, Akers, Dougal, Plumb, Colman.
Referee: Nathan Walker
Assistant Referees: Daniel Keeble & Richard Pace
Fakenham Town progress to the Norfolk Senior Cup Final where they will take on King's Lynn Town at Carrow Road on Monday 22 May at 7.30pm.