Norwich City 1, Dereham Town 2
Andrew Surman provided Canaries boss Paul Lambert with a boost when he successfully negotiated his long-awaited comeback from injury – although he couldn't help City avoid a shock Norfolk Senior Cup exit.
Surman played 69 minutes of the Canaries' 2-1 semi-final defeat at the hands of Dereham at Carrow Road.
The left-sided midfielder has been out of action since the 4-1 derby day thrashing of Ipswich Town at the end of November, after suffering his second knee injury of the season.
Surman had already missed three months of the season after damaging his knee in the fourth game of the season – a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest at the end of August – and his comeback lasted just two more games when he suffered a different injury, but to the same knee.
Lambert and his management team were in the directors' box last night to see Surman in action – but there was little they could do as City fell to a surprise reverse after goals by Kyle Downes and Gary Starling gave Dereham a lead that was halved only in stoppage time through Anthony McNamee.
'It's is very disappointing and we now have to brush ourselves down, stand up and be counted and learn from it,' said Academy boss Ricky Martin, who was in charge of City last night.
'There are lots of things to learn from tonight. Their keeper made some great saves and that keeps them in the game, but that's his job. We weren't ruthless or clinical enough, and at the end of the day goals wins matches.'
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If there was any consolation it was Surman's appearance.
'He did very well and at times looked too comfortable for the game, I felt,' Martin said. 'He looked very comfortable – and you have to remember he has had 12 weeks out, so that is probably the positive for me.'
Dereham boss Matty Henman can now concentrate on a meeting with either King's Lynn Town or Thetford Town, who play next week.
'Being selfish, that's probably the best feeling I have ever had in football,' he said. 'I am a massive Norwich fan. This is the first time I have ever managed or played in a competitive game at Carrow Road and it just makes up for last year and all the years I have not made it here. It's a double whammy – beating Norwich in a competitive game at Carrow Road and making it to a final.
'We knew looking at their side where their experience and strengths were. We said before the game we are never going to be able to stop everything that they throw at us, so what we concentrated on was to stop the things that were the biggest problems and maybe the smallest problems let them happen.'
City, with five senior players in the starting line-up, had the better of it as far as chances and possession were concerned, but were wasteful in front of goal.
City had wasted their opportunities, but Dereham took full advantage of the first that came their way, after 22 minutes. Scott Roberts challenged Surman on halfway and sent the ball forward for Downes to chase. He outmuscled Sam Habergham and crashed it into the top of the net from the right edge of the area.
Bang on the hour mark, Starling struck with a top drawer free-kick from all of 25 yards – an effort which would have graced any stage, let alone a Championship ground.
City launched the inevitable onslaught in the latter stages, with McNamee giving them a glimmer of hope when he fired home in the final minute. Sub Matt Ball saw a left-foot shot come off a post and then had a header cleared off the line as Dereham hung on for a famous victory.
• City: Matthews, Jones, Tierney (Gordon 69), Smith, Francomb, Habergham, Hughes, Surman (Ball 69), Werndley (Oakley 61), Dawkin, McNamee, Subs not used: Brindley, Dobbs.
Goal: McNamee 90.
• Dereham: Marshall, Willis, Cross, Gusterson, Starling, Beaumont, Roberts (Borrer 63), Smith, Downes (Reeves 58), King (Foster 71), Kelleher. Subs not used: Morgan, Higgs, Howard, Thompson.
Goals: Downes 22, Starling 60
• Att: 1,110