Massive night for Fakenham Town as talented teenagers host AFC Wimbledon in FA Youth Cup

Defender Ben Calvert in action for the under-18s at Fakenham Town. Picture: TONY MILES

Defender Ben Calvert in action for the under-18s at Fakenham Town. Picture: TONY MILES - Credit: Archant

GAVIN CANEY shines the spotlight on Fakenham Town Under-18s ahead of their big FA Youth Cup clash against AFC Wimbledon.

Fakenham Town youth-team defender Joe Woodhouse. Picture: TONY MILES

Fakenham Town youth-team defender Joe Woodhouse. Picture: TONY MILES - Credit: Archant

Those who put their heart and soul into creating football success at Clipbush Park don't do it for the headlines.

It's a good job really as the club that play there – Fakenham Town – often find themselves in the shadow of near neighbours Dereham Town who have charged up the semi-professional pyramid beyond them in recent years. And if that's not bad enough, the bright lights of Norwich City are just 25 miles down the road.

But on Tuesday it's time for those involved with the club, especially chairman Geoff Saunders, first-team boss Wayne Anderson and his assistant Neil Jarvis to soak up the night their non-league outfit take centre stage. Jarvis, also the club's under-18s manager, has guided his talented teenagers to a mouth-watering home FA Youth Cup first round tie against Football League outfit AFC Wimbledon. And he knows it's going to be an evening to remember for the town's footballers.

Jarvis said: 'It's going to be a massive night for everyone, especially the players.

Luke Gray, a midfielder for Fakenham Town Under-18s. Picture: TONY MILES

Luke Gray, a midfielder for Fakenham Town Under-18s. Picture: TONY MILES - Credit: Archant


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'It's possibly the biggest game they're ever going to play in to date certainly, and maybe ever. We're all looking forward to it.

'As a club this is the furthest we've ever been as a youth team and I think it's gone down with the locals in the town and hopefully we'll get a good crowd.'

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While first-team attendances still fail to take off despite returning to the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division - often dipping below the 100 mark – the club have been flying on the pitch. Anderson's first team are holding their own and his squad is packed with highly-rated players who have progressed through the under-18s.

Hopes are high that many of next week's starlets who will take on Academy players from the League Two club will earn their senior stripes in the years to come. Midfielder Dion Frary already has. And Ghosts' legend Jarvis – who has been involved with Fakenham since 1986 in a number of roles – is determined to make sure his beloved outfit get themselves many more column inches in the future.

He added: 'Wayne is very ambitious. He wants to take the club forward. Whether that happens in the next two or three seasons, I don't know. But we only need to look barely 12 miles down the road at Dereham at how well they're doing, and Wroxham (both play one level above Fakenham), as well. Why can't we be the next one to make that step up?'

Whatever happens on Tuesday, there seems to be no reason to suggest Fakenham can't keep creating more success stories in the years to come.

Teenagers told to relish their massive game against the Dons

Fakenham Town's talented teens are being urged to shine in their FA Youth Cup limelight at Clipbush Park this evening.

The Ghosts' under-18s welcome the Academy youngsters of League Two side AFC Wimbledon to Norfolk for a first-round clash that has captured the imagination. And boss Neil Jarvis is desperate for his players to embrace the opportunity of being able to perform on a much bigger platform than they usually do.

Jarvis, also Town's first-team assistant, said: 'At the end of the day you try to relax the lads. It's a huge game but they know that. You don't have to remind them.

'So you try and settle them down a bit and give them jobs that they're used to. Every player goes out there from minute one and will know their role and their jobs. I'm just one of those that says; 'Go and express yourself', that's the main thing. If you don't want to express yourself you might as well just come and sit in the dugout.

'I'll say to the lads; 'Go and enjoy it, express yourself and entertain. If there's a big crowd out there, go and show your mum, your dad, your grandmother, your grandad, myself and certainly the first-team manager (Wayne Anderson) who is there most games'. They're always looking to impress him as they want to be knocking on the door.'

Fakenham have seen off Ipswich Wanderers, Long Melford, Haverhill Rovers and Wroxham to set up tonight's high-profile tie against counterparts from a professional club.

The match kicks-off at 7.30pm and could go to extra-time and penalties to determine a winner. And Jarvis, who has been connected with the Ghosts in a number of roles since 1986, knows his fledglings are going to have to hang in there for large parts of the clash to stand any chance of progressing.

'Perhaps the first 45 minutes might be us parking the bus, and then we'll kick-off the second half and park the bus again for 30 minutes,' laughed the Fakenham legend.

'And then we'll throw the kitchen sink at it for the last 10-15. But seriously, it will be a big task for us. But if we can get the best out of the players and Wimbledon are not at their best, that's what needs to happen, then you just never know.'

The reward on offer for the victors is a trip to either League One Gillingham or Vanarama Conference Premier Eastleigh in the next round.

Kick-off is 7.30pm. Entry is £4 adults and £2 children/seniors.

For more build up to Fakenham's big night listen to West Norfolk Sports Podcast Episode 47 at www.edp24.co.uk/wnsp

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