Downham Town 4 Gorleston 2

Downham Town joint manager Dale Stokes paid tribute to striker Fletcher Toll after the youngster’s Norfolk Senior Cup final hat-trick at Carrow Road.

The 20-year-old made it three hat-tricks in this year’s competition and has 39 goals this season in all competitions.

It was a treble all strikers would be proud of – he was there at the end of a brilliant move to score the opener, he got his body in the way of a long-range effort from Jake Miller for his second, and held his nerve in time added on to slot home a penalty that sealed victory at a time when Gorleston were hunting an equaliser.

“He’s done it time and time again for us,” said Downham boss Stokes, who signed Toll from Heacham in November.

“For us he’s scored 33 or 34 in 37, 38 games, which is unbelievable. And at times recently, we've not given him great service because obviously we've been so short in terms of the squad, we've had to put things together, but to come on to obviously a stage like this in a Senior Cup - and he didn't actually have that many opportunities, but to still score a hat-trick.

“Obviously I know the second one was a bit fortunate and then that's a pressure penalty isn't it? You know if you score that it's game over, so fair play to him, he's been brilliant.”

It was Downham’s first Norfolk Senior Cup win since 1966, coming at the end of a season in which they finished seventh in the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division and were losing finalists in last week’s Thurlow Nunn Challenge Cup.

Opponents Gorleston were cup holders and had finished 10th in the Isthmian League North – their highest ever finish in the football pyramid.

“We were obviously the underdogs,” said Stokes. “We had a quick chat before the game as part of the team talk, just saying with the pitch how it is and the way we try and play football, we felt like there was really no pressure on us. We could do what we wanted to do providing obviously they didn't stop with their press that they were doing.

“I didn't enjoy it at times because obviously it was pretty nerve wracking because it's such a big game. It's something that the club haven't won for I don't know how many years. We haven't obviously won anything for a long time, we’ve been promoted through the play-offs, but it was unreal. When we got that penalty I turned around and I said to (joint manager) Craig Dickson, if this goes in we win.”

Stokes wears many caps at Downham, but it was the sight of some of the club’s longer-serving patrons which will remain long in the memory.

“This is why you do it, isn't it?” he said. “That's why I started as manager, first and foremost it was to try and get the club into a better position both on and off the pitch. And obviously we've done that over a period of time.

“I think we've had some bad luck the years before we did get promoted with Covid and whatever else, but this is something that you look at at the start of the season every year and you think ‘can we get to Carrow Road?’

“I sat at work this morning thinking to myself, ‘we've got there. I'm really pleased with the fact we've got there’ and it's something that you almost think, ‘well, just being here is enough’, however, you obviously want to win it and the fact is we've gone and done that and I think deservedly so.

“I’m obviously proud of everyone in the club, people like John Fysh, who has been there for years and years. He was in tears at the end which was great to see.”

Gorleston: Jessup, Lewis Johnson, Ingram (Hall 78), Frary, Jefford, Luke Johnson, Fatadjo, Keys, Pollock (Finch 59), Zielonka (Matthews 77), Parker. Subs not used: Tann, Ashman. Goals: Keys 49, Finch 87. 

Downham: McAnally, Miller, Bird, Watts-Sturrock, Yates, Castellan, Smalls, Franks (Reed 60), Jackson (White 77, Prudence 83), McQuaid, Toll. Subs not used: Oughton, Gould. Goals: Toll 32, 52, 94 pen, Jackson 55

Att: 715