After an entertaining ninety minutes which could have gone either way, it was substitute Chay Oliver that made the difference for the visitors in the second half of extra time.
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The two teams met just over a month ago with Bedfordshire travelling to theFDC to not only come away with nothing, but conceding eight goals in the process. It was clearly going to be a different game this time round with Norfolk travelling on the night and the hosts determined to avenge the last encounter.
This was evident within the first five minutes with end to end football being played from the off. Norfolk forced an early corner with some good forward play but failed to convert; Bedfordshire then fashioned a shot up the other end that was just wide.
The visitors began to control the game and were unlucky to not take the lead when a free kick was fired into the box and fell to Connor Ingram. The Gorleston striker found the back of the net but was adjudged to have been offside by the Assistant Referee.
Minutes lates, the influential Nathan Stewart turned his man in the box, in a similar fashion to his goal in the previous meeting between the two sides, however his shot was saved well by Dan Gould in the Bedfordshire goal.
The boys in green went close again in the first half with Jack Parker hitting a low drive that looked destined to nestle in the bottom corner, only for Gould to get down brilliantly again and push it round the post with his fingertips.
Bedfordshire then created some chances of their own as the half neared, with Kyle Ajayi failing to finish after a brilliant mazy run and Luca Stalham’s lob being not quite high enough to beat Billy Johnson in the Norfolk goal.
The keeper was called into action straight after the break when Robbie Buchannan fired a shot from outside the area which deflected off a Norfolk centre back. The ball took a wicked change of direction and looked to have beaten Johnson, however the young keeper jumped brilliantly to push it over the bar with a fingertip save.
Bedfordshire looked continuously dangerous on the counter but it was Norfolk who were playing on the front foot. Ingram found Stewart with a neat through ball but the latter fired his shot agonisingly wide with just the keeper to beat.
The former then won a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the corner of the box. The kick was whipped in dangerously, resulting in a goal mouth scramble which the hosts somehow managed to keep out. Moments later a Norfolk shot was fired in from close range only to be hit straight at Gould.
The game only got more exciting from here, a hard challenge saw things get heated between Norfolk’s Harnwell and Bedfordshire’s Babaloa, which saw nearly all players from both teams get involved in some pushing and shoving. Both players were put into the Referee’s book and the on field tension filtered over to the side-lines where supporters from both sides began to get vocal.
As the end of the game neared, both teams upped the tempo a final time to try and grab the winner. Norfolk were met with disappointment again when Captain Kieren Shipp found the back of the net only for the Assistant Referee to raise his flag and deny Norfolk taking the lead for second time in the game.
Late drama saw the hosts almost take the game on more than one occasion and saw Johnson really shine in the Norfolk goal.
The keeper pulled off another magnificent finger-tip save after a great shot from Cameron Veazey. The resulting corner then saw Johnson have to react quickly to a close range shot which he saved with his knees, a stinging rebound was fired back towards goal which saw Johnson back on his feet and in the air to meet the ball with a strong wrist, putting it over and out for another corner which the visitors were able to clear.
The Referee blew for full time as soon as the ball was cleared and Norfolk were left thanking their goalkeeper for keeping them in the tie.
Bedfordshire came out of the traps the quicker in the first half of extra time, calling Johnson into action once again with the keeper making himself big and forcing the stop. Veazey once again looked to hit the net for the hosts with a fierce shot, but the resilient Johnson was on hand once again to keep the score at 0-0.
The tempo rose once again in the second half of extra time with Norfolk turning up the heat despite the freezing cold conditions.
The visitors continued to go close forcing another good stop from Gould and hitting the post with a curling free kick. Norfolk continued to knock on the door and they finally got an answer five minutes from time.
Stewart went up a gear and beat the left back, reaching the by-line and cutting it back into the danger area. Norfolk’s Ryan Harnwell was on hand to hit the ball goal bound and the shot cannoned off Chay Oliver to hit the back of the net leaving the Gould and defenders on the line helpless.
The Norfolk boys went wild but then continued to work hard for the final minutes ensuring they saw out the victory and booked their place in the 3rd Round of the FA County Youth Cup.
Final score: Bedfordshire 0 - 1 Norfolk (AET)
Bedfordshire – Dan Gould, Aiden Fennelly, Sam Paton, Kyle Ajayi, Lewis Lodge, Elijah Babalola, Robbie Buchannan, Adam Hughes, Lawrence Burton, Sam Gibson, Luca Stalham.
SUBS: Kieran Phillips, Tyler Mitchell, Cameron Veazey, George Fitter.
Norfolk – Billy Johnson, Kieren Shipp, Tom Rampling, Ollie Tarft, Josh Hazel, Jack Barber, Ryan Harnwell, Jacob White, Connor Ingram, Jack Parker, Nathan Stewart.
SUBS: Callum Bennett, Nick Castellan, Archie Galley, Chay Oliver.
Referee – Andreas Anastasiou
Assistants – Keith Kennet & Steven Williams
Player of the Match – Billy Johnson.