Kelleher’s brace sees Town home
Blofield United 2, Dereham Town 3: Seamus Kelleher's late strike saw Dereham Town break Blofield United's hearts in a thrilling Norfolk Senior Cup quarter-final at Yarmouth Road.
More than 350 people saw the Anglian Combination Premier side lead the Ridgeons Premier Division leaders twice, as well as United's claims for a late winner struck off after the referee's assistant deemed the ball had not crossed the goal line – before the Magpies eventually made their improved second half showing tell.
Town manager Matt Henman said: 'It was a really tricky game. Blofield worked their socks off and they made it really difficult for us.
'We perhaps should have got ourselves ahead in the first 10 minutes and then they grew in confidence and probably deserved their half-time lead.
'We were far better in the second half and I thought we finished the game strongly. So I was pleased with our second half performance – not so much our first. But in the end it's a game where the result is far more important than the performance.'
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Henman and United co-manager Paddy Murphy know each other well – and the Magpies boss admitted he sympathised with his opposite number.
'I've got a lot of respect for Paddy,' said Henman. 'I've known him for years and he hasn't changed a bit – very competitive during the match but then before and after, he's a really nice guy. And I did feel for him. I'm sure he would have loved to take a team to Carrow Road.'
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That honour will now fall to the Magpies, while Murphy was left with a sleepless night – Saturday was the fifth time his Blofield side have come within 90 minutes of a trip to Carrow Road.
'The players performed absolutely fantastically,' said Muprhy. 'They were a credit to the club and I think everyone there felt we were unlucky to lose. There was nothing really between the two sides. It was a fantastic game; I couldn't have asked for anything more from the players.'
United struck first after 33 minutes, Sean Brown's cross converted by Danny McKail. But Dereham improved after the break – and equalised on 52 minutes when Kyle Downes got on the end of Gary Starling's cross.
The Beavers regained their lead on 70 minutes, McKail's fine throughball finished by Neil Hurren, but Town took a matter of minutes to restore parity, substitute Kelleher bundling home.
McKail was convinced his header from close range crossed the line with 15 minutes left – but the referee and his assistant were unconvinced.
And as a ding-dong encounter looked to be heading for extra-time, Kelleher got a touch to a Magpies corner in the final minutes. This time the opposite assistant referee flagged the ball had crossed the line – handing the substitute his second of the afternoon and last season's semi-finalists the chance to go one better this time around.