Norfolk U18s clinch historic national title
Norfolk under 18s came from behind to run out 4-2 winners today against Staffordshire under 18s to lift the County FA Youth Cup at Stoke's Britannia Stadium for the first time.
Ian Thornton's side, drawn from the county's local Ridgeons clubs and UCL Premier Division runners-up King's Lynn, proved too strong for the home favourites. Goals from Joe Marsden, a brace from Nathan Howard and an own goal from Sam Cunningham handed the away side victory - Ryan Timmins and Jack Sherratt netted for the hosts.
Norfolk started brightly and went close through Howard, who headed harmlessly over the bar. Despite Norfolk's strong start, Staffordshire took the lead on five minutes through a brilliantly headed goal from Timmins after a superb free-kick from captain Jack Hullin. Minutes later Fakenham's Dan Savoury headed right across the face of the goal as Norfolk went in search of an equaliser.
Norfolk continued to press and a mazy run from Joe Marsden lead to a gilt-edged chance for Howard, who inadvertently trod on the ball with the goal gaping. Staffordshire wasted a good chance when Sam Plimmer blazed over from Matthew Barnett's centre. Norfolk continued to press and Marsden blazed harmlessly over when Joe Manning was perhaps better placed. The first booking of the day came on 22 minutes, Norfolk's Jordan Southgate's tackle deemed too reckless by referee James Adcock.
Norfolk's equaliser did come in the 30th minute, when a Rory Delap-style throw in from Thomas McLeish was flicked on by Howard into the path of Mardsen, who nodded home. Norfolk took the lead on 39 minutes when Howard tapped home after Sam Borrer's header brought a superb save from Staffs' goalkeeper Mark Wiggins.
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Norfolk had their tails up and went close minutes later, Borrer's superb strike just evading the crossbar. The 'Greens' were dominating proceedings and right on the stroke of half-time Marsden forced a superb stop from Wiggins.
Staffordshire made their first change at half-time with England schoolboy Cliff Moyo replacing Matthew Burnett.
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This change did nothing to hinder Norfolk who stretched their advantage through Howard, with a stunning strike into the top corner. Staffordshire were really against the ropes and Norfolk came within inches of extending their lead, Lewis Butcher smashed the crossbar with a header. Staffs made their second change of the game Tom Horton replaced by Josh Glover.
Norfolk extended their lead on 58 minutes, the unfortunate Sam Cunningham diverting the ball into his own net. The away side made their first change two minutes later, Kings Lynn Town's Gino Livotti replacing Jordan Southgate.
Staffs made the final of their changes when Ashley Southall was replaced by Ben Kirby. Norfolk's second change came on 71 minutes with Lewis Butcher replaced by Jamie George
Staffordshire came close to reducing the arrears when Plimmer headed just over from close range, they did however pull one back on 80 minutes when Jack Sherratt fired home from the edge of the box.
Norfolk came close to sealing the game when Ben Jones' ferocious strike cannoned back off the crossbar and minutes later substitute George forced a fine save from Wiggins in the Staffs' goal. Norfolk's final change came with only a minute remaining, the superb Joe Marsden was replaced by Lewis Sturman. Livotti came close to getting his name on the score sheet, forcing the overworked Wiggins into another save after some neat footwork from the King's Lynn Town man.
But four proved to be enough for the Norfolk boys who held on to record their county's first ever County FA Youth Cup victory.