1st vs 2nd Leaves North Norfolk in 3rd
By Mark Farmer-Wright
1st vs 2nd Leaves North Norfolk in 3rd
The men’s firsts travelled away to UEA for a 1st vs 2nd clash. With UEA being unbeaten and bouncing, North Norfolk knew they would be in for a tough afternoon and travelled with a 14 strong squad.
UEA started as expected, distributing the ball from left to right with pace, confidence and assurance. Leaving Sayer and Farmer-Wright bounding across the pitch to apply some pressure as the first line of defence. Whitby, Miles and Gibson enclosed the flanks with a solid press, whilst Sadler-Barker and Barker provided a lean back-up. North Norfolk looked comfortable chasing the ball, and UEA accepted they would need to raise their game that little bit more to maintain their unbeaten streak. North Norfolk learned deep defensive duties the hard way, with the first major attacks from UEA enticing diving tackles which in turn created in D panic resulting in short corners.
North Norfolk firmed up accepting their lessons, but UEA were able to break the deadlock midway through the first half. With UEA growing in confidence, time on the ball was at a premium, with each North Norfolk player having to be wise to their own next move or face the wrath of 3 ball-hungry UEA players bearing down on them. Not disheartened, Barker and Sadler-Barker accepted the challenge and continued their fine form of getting North Norfolk attacks underway, Whitby in his rise to 1st team prominence made UEA lives difficult attacking down the right at pace with nifty stick skills, and drawing fouls a plenty. Some sharp thinking from Whitby and clever runs from Sayer and Miles created a dangerous attack, with Miles charging down on the keeper however, with the angle against him was unable to tuck the ball home.
Following a string of fresh changes North Norfolk went a further goal down, a clear sign of just why UEA were top of the table who continued to drive on and exploit gaps despite some excellent defensive work from Hart, Whitwood, Farrow and Sands whilst Bartram as always proved to be one of the best keepers around. Undeterred North Norfolk kept their heads up determined not to let the game get beyond them and came close when newly capped Jon fashioned a chance out of nothing, elegantly flicking a driven pass from Green towards the top left-hand corner of the goal drawing a fine diving save from the UEA number 1. Resilient as always North Norfolk pushed on and won a short corner towards the end of the half, with Sayer having just been taken off the pitch it was probably the wrong call to play “Hendo’s Nose” and Farmer-Wright was unable to find the corner with his touch, peculiar for someone who was bragging not even an hour prior.
North Norfolk began the second half looking for smarter play, but in the same vein as the first half UEA demanded an exceptional work rate from North Norfolk, and North Norfolk were toe to toe with UEA until an unfortunate decision saw UEA extend their lead to 3. A UEA winger cut a find angle and was through on goal, the other UEA attackers brimming with excitement wanted in on the action too, and as the attacker lifted over Dale the other active UEA attacker was able to play a part through American Football style defensive duties, disrupting Bartram and other North Norfolk defenders allowing his team mate to tap home under no pressure. North Norfolk furious with the decision were unable to overturn it.
The battle continued, and as legs began to tire tackles were forced with Miles diving and swinging his stick in desperation to prevent another UEA attack. As Miles described later, he only missed the ball by a few millimetres, but in games like these the margins are just that fine, and finding the oppositions shin pads with force is frowned upon and a green card duly followed. With 10 minutes to go North Norfolk found a second wind and attacked with aggression, Whitwood set Barker on his way, who distributed wide to Farmer-Wright who in turn found Miles at the top of the D, Miles telepathically and instinctively forced through an under the shoulder pass to an onrushing Sayer, who dragged the ball into the roof of the net.
North Norfolk’s bite and venom continued and UEA were truly on the ropes, but unfortunately time was against them. Full time and UEA pulled away with a 3-1 victory, on a different day with different decisions the result could have been vastly different. What is for sure is the men’s firsts illustrated that they can operate at that level, defending and attacking superbly in a high stakes game working hard for themselves and each other. The loss sees the men surrender the 2nd place spot for the first time in 7 weeks to Ipswich.
The men have 1 game to finish the first round of matches in Div 3NE and a further game to end the first half of the season. A full 6 points will be required to maintain their league standing, they start with a tricky fixture against Norwich Dragons 2 and end with the reverse fixture of where they began against Newmarket.