Dereham strike a blow for the Ridgeons
Dereham Town's stunning 2-1 Norfolk Senior Cup semi-final victory over Norwich City's fringe players not only booked them a final place, but issued an extremely bold statement about the standard of football found in the Ridgeons Premier Division.
Former Watford winger Anthony McNamee netted a late consolation for the hosts after Magpies' duo Kyle Downes and Gary Starling had put Matty Henman's side in control at Carrow Road.
This is an incredible feat for Henman's men, given Norwich lined up with a squad containing no fewer than six players who have played in the Championship this season.
McNamee, Andrew Surman and especially Korey Smith have been regular fixtures on the Canaries' team sheet this season. For a Ridgeons side to even compete against this sort of team is an amazing achievement, yet alone to beat them. Dereham Town put in a superb performance and really showed to the on looking public and media here is real quality to be found in the Ridgeons Divisions.
An obvious example of the excellent standard of football in the Ridgeons Leagues is to look at the talent of some footballers that have plied their trade in The Eastern Counties League in the recent past.
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Former Southend striker Tes Bramble, who even has an international goal to his name, played a handful of games for Leiston. Also former Bordeaux and French under-21 midfielder Cedric Anselin has played for both Dereham Town and Norwich United. Probably the footballer with the highest calibre to have played Ridgeon's football recently is former West Ham midfielder Kevin Horlock, who gained 32 international caps with Northern Ireland and was once brought by Manchester City for �1.25m. Horlock played for last season's Ridgeon's Premier Division champions, Needham Market.
In addition to this, teams who manage to gain promotion from this division tend to progress pretty quickly up the non-league pyramid, with Needham Market, Lowestoft Town and Histon all examples of teams to have progressed upwards since gaining promotion and emphasising the high standard found in the league.
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Baring this in mind, it is a shock that more teams higher up the chain, in Leagues One and Two don't take a punt with some Ridgeons players, as it is clear they can hold their own against seasoned professionals.
Despite The Ridgeons being the tenth tier of English football, Dereham have proved this division is far from a 'Micky Mouse' league and Ridgeons teams can mix it with the best.