Photo gallery: Norwich United not at the races as FA Vase run ends in Ascot
- Credit: Seb Daly/Focus Images Limited
There was more than a hint of déjà vu about Norwich United's FA Vase exit in Berkshire – ending the Blofield club's best-ever run in the competition.
The Planters had to wear their alternative grey kit at the Racecourse Ground as hosts Ascot United have a similar home strip to their usual yellow and blue kit.
It was the furthest that Norwich had ever been in the Vase and they went into the game full of confidence because of a fantastic league record, but fell to a 3-0 defeat.
It was all rather reminiscent of last season's trip to Ampthill Town in Bedfordshire, where Damian Hilton's team faced opposition who wore yellow and blue in the fourth round – and lost 3-0.
The defeat was just as painful this time around and made for a long trip home for the Planters, but they still have much to look forward to this season.
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They remain seven points clear at the top of the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division and have both a League Cup quarter-final against Kirkley & Pakefield and a Norfolk Senior Cup semi-final at Wroxham to look forward to.
Experienced centre-back Greg Crane and 20-goal striker Ben Thompson were both unavailable and their absence told, as the free-flowing style which saw the Planters romp to a 5-0 success away at Kent side Ashford United in the previous round never resurfaced.
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With the giant grandstand of Ascot Racecourse looming in the distance, it had looked like Norwich had burst out of the stalls fastest.
Top scorer Matt Blake flicked a header on to Adam Hipperson on the left wing in the first minute and the resulting cross was knocked into danger area by Ben Jones, only for Matty Daniels to hesitate with his shot.
The Yellamen took heed of the warning and launched an attack in the eighth minute which sliced through the Norwich backline with alarming ease. Defender Jesse Wilson's long ball was well controlled by striker Jon Bennett on the right of the visitors' penalty area and he picked out his unmarked strike partner Damien Markman, who made no mistake with his header from close range.
Hipperson stung the Ascot keeper's gloves with a powerful low shot three minutes after the goal but Ascot resumed control, with their front pairing of Bennett and Markman again proving a handful.
Bennett headed a cross from right-back Dave Hancock just wide of the top-right corner in the 12th minute and Markman pressured Norwich keeper Duncan McAnally into letting the ball slip in the 21st minute, but the striker could only fire into the side-netting.
Tempers flared soon after when Josh Carus, brought in to the Norwich starting XI in Crane's absence, tangled with Bennett and was angrily accused of having bitten the big striker on the shoulder. Referee Sam Purkiss was not convinced and let Carus off with a warning.
The hosts were fired up following the incident and doubled the lead in the 31st minute, midfielder Lee Boon seizing on a loose ball on the edge of the box following a corner and firing into the bottom-left corner.
Then barely a minute later, a swift counter-attack from Ascot saw Bennett put Markman through on goal and his powerful finish into the top-left corner of McAnally's net sealed the win for the hosts.
The Planters performed much better after the break but the closest they came was a looping header from Daniels being cleared off the line, as Ascot defended their lead fiercely.
Norwich now resume their league fixtures tomorrow night away at bottom-of-the-table Ely City – who could well be on the receiving end of some serious pent-up frustration.