Promotion now the focus for cup winners
One down, one to go was the verdict of an emotional Gorleston manager Richard Daniels after his team saw off Thetford Town in the final of the Ridgeons League First Division Cup at Diss on Friday.
Daniels had insisted before the game that his priority was getting promotion back to the Premier Division and the cup was a distraction, albeit a nice bonus. Even so, he was in tears after the Greens secured a 3-1 victory in extra-time.
'This means such a lot for the club,' he said. 'Not just the players but the people behind the scenes; the likes of Jimmy Jones (chairman) and Ann Santon (secretary). They have had to wait so long to see the club win anything.'
The final lived up to its pre-match billing as the division's two in-form side went at each other in entertaining fashion. There was goalmouth action aplenty and, despite referee Carl Pearse booking five players from each side, the match was never dirty.
Pearse was at the centre of the main talking points; making an early start by awarding Thetford a penalty after just 33 seconds – converted by Matt Dixon.
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Then, after Chris Sandford had forced extra-time and Ali McKenna had given the Greens the lead, Pearse gave Thetford another spot kick when Simon Mann's cross hit a Gorleston defender on the arm. Matt Blake's effort was straight at goalkeeper Elliott Pride but Pearse awarded a retake after his assistant flagged.
Blake's follow-up was sent wide and Bradley Hough completed the 3-1 scoreline in the final minute.
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Thetford manager Mark Scott was frustrated by his team's missed opportunity but refused to blame Blake. 'Matt Dixon is our penalty taker but Blakey fancied it. It was nothing to do with me, they sorted it themselves and all credit to the lad for accepting the pressure, especially after being given a second chance. He's absolutely devastated.'
The two managers combined in a mutual appreciation society, paying fulsome tribute to their opponents.
Daniels said: 'Thetford fully deserved to be in the final and gave us a great game. They played some tremendous stuff and I can see them putting in a real challenge for promotion next season if they can keep their squad together.'
And Scott said: 'Gorleston have some top quality players and played some great football. But we created enough chances to win and the last goal was a huge disappointment, 3-1 makes it look a far more comfortable win for them than it actually was.'
The focus for Gorleston now switches back to the league. If they beat Whitton United tomorrow at Emerald Park they will need just one more point from their final four games to secure promotion.