The Curse of 28!
By Mark Farmer-Wright
The Curse of 28!
The men’s firsts returned to Cromer for a 2nd of 3 back-to-back home fixtures, welcoming 3rd placed Ipswich 2’s for a top table clash.
With the sun emerging for the first whistle the outlook looked positive for a team looking to go 28 games unbeaten. Both teams were sloppy in early exchanges with both teams surrendoring possession as they aclimatised to an unusually quick Cromer pitch and looked to figure out the other’s strategy.
With both teams settling after 10 minutes, attacks were mounted in both directions. The usual combination of Sadler-Barker, Barker and Gibson worked like a well oiled machine, with Gibson linking up with debutent Ewart well. Ewart having illustrated skill and exceptional work rate during training and 2nd team fixtures was rightfully called up, and it didn’t take him long to show the rationale for the decision. Ewart received the ball on the right hand side, driving 20 yards towards the opposition D holding the ball under significant pressure and eventually slipping a pass to an on-rushing Miles who managed to get a shot off, a deflection saw the ball loop into the air fortunately falling at the feet of Farmer-Wright who drove the ball home in a cricket like fashion.
The goal came slightly against the run of play, and Ipswich were not disheartened. Mounting attack after attack, the North Norfolk defence of Sands, Whitwood, Green and a returning Farrow held firm. With Farrow demonstrating the solidity he has provided the 2nds defence up against and tricky left-winger. Short corners were inevitable, and rumours on the circuit of a well drilled Ipswich team were true. Ipswich eventually found the net after relentlessly pushing and overloading on North Norfolk’s left-hand-side, with a well worked 1-2 and a ball across to the penalty spot to stroke home.
Ipswich smelt blood in the water and were looking for the kill. The perhaps would have got there if it wasn’t for an absolutely incredible display from Bartram, if one incredible diving stick save to prevent a certain goal wasn’t enough, the second which looked almost impossible left the spectators and players astonished. With Bartram being left all but helpless on the floor following the first shot, was somehow able to get his stick to the follow-up and deflect the ball over the bar. Just unbelievable.
North Norfolk maintained a competitive spirit, mounting attacks and earning a number of their own short corners. However, there was to be no sound of Jimmy’s Balls thudding against the backboard or swishing the net this week. In a scramble late on in the D, Miles swept towards the far right hand corner of the goal, with an Ipswich defender unable to react quick enough a flick was awarded after his leg prevented the ball from going in. Sadler-Barker will be disappointed as the rebound fell right to him to hit home, but with the ball falling to him just a fraction too late the whistle was already blown for the flick. Up-steps captain fantastic, cooly slotting the ball where it should have originally gone whilst sending the keeper in the opposite direction. 2-1 to the good at half time.
Ipswich continued to pressurise with a resurgent force, full of anger and distaste. With the rummen attitude and foul mouthed number 3 eventually meeting his fate in the sin bin, after a full 45 minutes of sound effects for every tackle and for getting a little too close and personal for his own good. However, North Norfolk were unable to take advantage during this time with number 3 returning to bolster the attack. Eventually they bridged the gap to make it 2-2.
With Ipswich pushing, Norfolk had much space to utilise although it was difficult to find a way through the high press. Chances went arry in the oppositions danger zone, with Ewart pressurised into making an awkward reverse pass for which the debutent was to be fined for later as another welcome to the team. However, chances still appeared through Ipswich howlers, Gibson working hard to craft something for Farmer-Wright who was clearly missing Sayer, Gibson thread a ball through to Farmer-Wright who was unable to find the net with a first time sweep was given another chance as the ball returned to him. Instead of shooting, turned and passed to a frantically yelping Gibson at the top of the D. From certain angles, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gibson had an open goal and what seemed to be an almost certain goal was denied by the finest of touches of the keeper’s right boot.
Sketchy moments began to crop up in a finely balanced game, with a comic moment seeing Green lose all sense of direction and float aimlessly across his own D, eventually having the ball plucked off his red and white striped stick. Fortunately, luck was on his side and the opportunity went begging for Ipswich.
Ipswich utilised the youth down their left, after Hall and Farrow had put in a good shift to keep the fiesty number 25 quiet, were eventually left chasing his and their own tails. A floundering, flapping and fidgity Farrow was left gasping for air on the deck of his own D which was later (harshly) likened to a whale out of water. Whilst the North Norfolk defence were left frantically splashing falling rain water over Farrow’s blowhole to revive him, but a switched on Ipswich player saw an opportunity to push to ball into a helpless Farrow to win a short corner.
The much heralded number 28 of Ipswich, who had haunted the ears of last year’s first team through Barker’s persistant screams was quiet all day. However, a late surge of energy saw him start pulling the strings yet again. Hardly fitting for a side looking to go 28 games unbeaten. After a dogged display from the North Norfolk defence, their resolve was eventually beaten with a little less than 5 minutes to play.
The curse of 28 reared it’s ugly face, I mean head! After 27 magical games, the men’s 1sts unbeaten streak was brought to an end. There was a lot to take from the game, no-one could argue the end result and the fixture will prove to be a valuable lesson to the men going forward into the remainder of the season. With more tough games ahead, North Norfolk still remain in 2nd place with a slightly less plump cushion. The work rate was fantastic, with players like Sands being likened to a labrador, there will certainly be some tired legs out there.
A particular mention must go to John Ewart, who had a fantastic debut and looks like a highly promising talent and asset for the club. North Norfolk play at home again this week against 8th placed Sudbury who are unbeaten in their last three fixtures. Sayer and Hart will return to the squad after they put down their golf clubs and tennis rackets respectively.
There’s always another game, we go on, we are North Norfolk.