Dereham Town 2, Gorleston 1
A disappointing outcome for Gorleston but the Greens were far from disgraced in what will possibly be their toughest away match of the season.
Gorleston made five changes to the starting line up. With both main goalkeepers unavailable, and Under 18s keeper Sam Gordon required for the Reserves, the management drafted in James Bergin from Corton between the sticks.
There was a return for Kyle Howell at right back in place of Adam Mills, Jack Marsden came into midfield in place of Steve Taylor who was injured on Saturday, Ally McKenna and Bradley Hough were both given starts with Christy Finch and George Jermy dropping to the bench.
The match itself was, to quote a clich�, a game of two halves and maybe could have been a classic but for an over-officious referee.
The first half saw Gorleston at their best with Liam Harvey-Cooper causing Dereham problems on the right.
It was a foul on him after eight minutes which provided the game's first opportunity when Reece Hunn took an inswinging free kick which McKenna headed against the post.
Four minutes later a Hunn corner was headed into the net by Eddie Thompson but the referee had spotted an infringement somewhere and awarded Dereham a free kick.
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Gary Starling hit a drive which was always rising over Bergin's bar, then it was Harvey-Cooper's turn to hit a shot from 18 yards which Dereham keeper Andy Wilton turned away.
A Starling cross found Sam Borrer with a free header but he put it over before another foul on Harvey-Cooper saw Gary Williams free kick tipped over by Wilton.
A poor pass by the Greens defence put Borrer in on goal but Bergin was quick off his line and just got enough of a touch with his foot to put the ball out for a corner.
Ten minutes before the break the deadlock was broken.
Williams stormed down the right and hit a cross from the byline. Sandford attacked the ball at the near post, glancing a header across goal, where it struck the far post and went in to give his side the lead at the break.
The break came at the right time for Dereham and the half-time feeling was that they probably couldn't play as poorly in the second half and so it proved, with a half-time substitution proving the difference.
Despite an early effort from Williams which was pushed round the post by Wilton, Dereham began to dominate.
A superb tackle by Thompson in the 57th minute stopped Nicky Howell as he bore goalwards but the equaliser came four minutes later.
A free kick from the left was punched away by Bergin but it fell straight into the path of half-time substitute Scott Sutherland-Gray who slammed the ball home.
Dereham continued to press as Gorleston began to hit more and more long passes, not able to play the passing game that had served them so well in the first half.
With ten minutes remaining the Magpies took the lead. A long ball picked out Sutherland-Gray on the right side of the box, he slipped his defender, cutting in and fired the ball home.
Two minutes later it could have been three when a superb swerving shot from Luke Tuttle beat Bergin all ends up but thundered back off the post.
With six minutes remaining Dereham probably should have sewn the game up when they were awarded a penalty.
Starling stepped up to send Bergin the wrong way but the ball came back off the right post. The follow up then struck the left post, then a further follow up was blasted over the gaping goal.
A late Dereham sending off didn't help Gorleston in their search for an equaliser. Despite numerous charges into the box from Hough and McKenna, then substitute Jack Garrod, the ball would not fall favourably for the Greens.
A victory would have taken the Greens top, however, it was the high-flying Magpies who made it ten wins from ten in all matches this season to remain top of the tree.
The statistics of 35 free kicks and seven yellows, including the one which led to the red card, suggest a bad tempered affair but it was far from it. From Dereham's point of view their only two efforts on target both found the back of the net which will stand them in good stead in their race for the title.
For Gorleston, this match showed that, on their day, they are a match for anybody and, if they can keep going for 90 minutes, they should be there or thereabouts come April.
• Gorleston: James Bergin, Kyle Howell, Reece Hunn, Jack Marsden (Christy Finch, 90), Andy Howell, Eddie Thompson, Chris Sandford, Gary Williams (David Hinton, 87), Ally McKenna, Bradley Hough, Liam Harvey-Cooper (Jack Garrod, 87)
Bookings: McKenna (68), Marsden (88)
Goal: Sandford (35)
• Dereham Town: Adam Wilton, Ollie Willis, Gary Starling, Adam Gusterson, Matt Howard, Jay Eastoe-Smith, Nicky Howell, Sam Borrer, Luke Tuttle, Luke Hannant, Craig Bussens; Sub: Scott Sutherland-Gray (46)
Bookings: Gusterson (29), Howard (54), Hannant (54), Starling (63, 89)
Sent off: Starling (89)
Goals: Sutherland-Gray (61, 80)
• Attendance 175