Angels fly so close to cup success

NORTH Walsham Town finally returned to action after 25 days of inactivity as they hosted Norwich United in the Norfolk Senior Cup. And despite putting in a resolute and brave display, they saw their hopes of a giant-killing extinguished in the dying seconds of the encounter to lose by the odd goal in three.

The Town line-up saw starts handed to Murphy and Davison and also returns for Abbs, Reynolds and Deledicq as the Angels set up with an attack minded 4-3-3 formation. With Miller cup-tied, the bench was made up by Broom, Cini, Davis, Lawrence and Patterson.

In front of a large and vocal crowd, Walsham started nervously and were struggling to keep possession in the opening exchanges. Despite this, they were coping with their more illustrious opponents' threat.

Gradually they developed a foothold and created the first real chance on 15 minutes. A swift counter-attack saw Grand release Davies down the right and his low centre proved just too strong for Abbs, whose stretched effort failed to test Nower in the Planters' goal.

At the other end, Muir, Tindall, Dunlop and Grand were coping admirably and restricting United to long-range efforts. One from Robinson was palmed wide by Murphy. From the resulting corner, Murphy lost his footing as he came to claim the ball, but the Ridgeons side failed to capitalise.

By this stage, the Angels were playing some slick passing football and asking questions of the visiting defence. United were then indebted to Nower as he clawed Tindall's stinging volley away from the top corner.

With eight minutes of a enthralling first half remaining, Norwich United thought they had grabbed the lead.

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After Davison was penalised for a clumsy challenge, a quickly-taken free-kick was rolled to Hunter, who drilled in off the post. Their joy was short-lived however as referee Mr Jacques decreed that the set-piece was taken from the wrong place and brought play back to the scene of the foul.

The re-taken free-kick saw Murphy tip Fox's effort onto the bar and pounce on the dropping ball.

With the scores level at the break, the Angels came out in the same enterprising fashion in the opening exchanges of the second half but were unable to trouble Nower in The Planters' goal.

Deledicq and Marsh were constantly probing whilst Abbs, Davies and Reynolds were asking questions of United's defence.

Slowly but surely however, the Ridgeons League side began to impose themselves on the game, and after wasting one good chance they moved ahead on 70 minutes.

A miss-hit cross was headed on by Key and picked up by Fox, whose lobbed pass found Tom Jeal. His fierce strike found its way into the roof of the net via Murphy's outstretched boot.

This blow led to an immediate change as Patterson replaced Davison and Town pushed another man forward.

They came inches away from finding that elusive goal when Abbs' pin-point through-ball released Marsh and he beat Nower to the ball but saw his lobbed effort drift inches wide.

This proved to be Abbs' last major contribution as he succumbed to fatigue and was replaced by Broom, whilst Davis came on for Grand.

The Angels were not to be outdone however and grabbed their equaliser on 81 minutes.

Davies' out-swinging corner was met powerfully by skipper Muir, only to bring an instinctive save from Nower. James Marsh was on hand to stab in the rebound to send the home crowd into raptures.

With the momentum behind them, Walsham searched for the winner and came perilously close. But an off-balance Patterson dragged his effort wide.

Referee Jacques soon brought an end to normal time as the crowd lapped up the prospect of another 20 minutes of action.

Extra-time saw both sides go in search of that important goal and Shipley should have scored for the visitors when he found himself unmarked from a corner. Marsh also went close to grabbing his second but was denied by Nower.

With fatigue well and truly set in, both sides began to exploit the open spaces on view and both Fox and Hunter fired wide when well placed, whilst Murphy shovelled an effort from Claydon past his post. At the other end, Patterson again went close.

As the lottery of penalties loomed large, Norwich United grabbed the winning goal with 90 seconds remaining.

Reynolds bravely blocked Claydon's effort but the ball fell to Justin Fox, whose low strike from 20 yards squirmed under the body of Murphy and trickled over the line.

The hopes of North Walsham were punctured and players, management and supporters alike looked on in desolation at having the dream of a potential tie against Norwich City wrenched from their grasp.

This was a highly-commendable performance by the Angels against a side 41 places above them in the football pyramid.

Dunlop, Tindall and captain Muir were immense in the home defence, whilst the talents of Deledicq and Marsh were a pleasure to watch in the midfield.

With Davies, Abbs and ultimately Broom causing problems down the flanks, and Patterson and Reynolds leading the line with gusto, the display was a credit to the club and was complemented by the Ridgeons side's management.

It is hoped that the squad can maintain this form when they return to league action against Wroxham Reserves on Saturday in the final game of 2010.

With key players from last season also set to return in the early part of 2011, the prospects again look bright at Greens Road.