Thetford Town looking for grand finale to amazing season against Gorleston in Norfolk Senior Cup final
Thetford Town will cap one of the greatest seasons in the club's history tonight when they take on Gorleston in the final of the Norfolk Senior Cup at Carrow Road (7.30pm).
The Brecklanders already have promotion in the bag after being pipped to the Ridgeons League Division One title by Godmanchester Rovers.
And having won back top-flight status for the first time in 21 years they now seek to lift the Norfolk Senior Cup for the first time since their 4-3 win over St Andrews, also in 1991.
Manager Mark Scott has already met his targets for the campaign – which were to win promotion and better last season's run to the Norfolk Senior Cup semi-finals.
But he desperately wants to have something more than a league runners-up trophy to show for all his team has achieved – and believes that the agony of going so close to the title provides an extra incentive to finish a glorious campaign on a high.
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'Promotion was always our main aim this season, but we were bitterly disappointed to miss the league title on goal difference, especially when we had only needed a draw at Godmanchester to be sure of winning it,' said Scott.
'This could have been just a bonus, but we're certainly not just going there to take part. I know I've got some really excited players and with the form we've been in we'll be full of confidence.
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'You can't over-estimate what it means to step onto a pitch like that, which top Premier League teams are playing on every other week, and just to be in those dressing rooms. It will be fantastic for everyone.'
Ironically, the only Thetford player to have taken part in a Senior Cup final at Carrow Road, striker Steve Harley, is suspended.
Thetford will also be without Nathan Szyszlyk, who picked up a late-season injury, while Bruno Tavares is rated '50-50' with an ankle problem.
'I'm relatively confident Bruno will play some part,' said Scott. 'He's a very influential player for us and like the other two would certainly have started if fit.'
Scott is happy to accept the role of underdogs against Premier Division Gorleston, but adds: 'They are at the level we'll be competing at next season and on the two occasions we've played Premier teams this season – against Dereham and Wroxham – we've won.
'This is another chance to show we can do it at that level.'
Gorleston will be hoping to win the trophy in honour of former club president and driving force Jimmy Jones , who died in March.
'I think all the players will have it in their minds that Jimmy is looking down on them,' said Richard Daniels, who manages the Greens with Stu Larter. 'But as long as they give it their all Jimmy will be proud of them whatever they do.'
Daniels is wary of the threat Thetford pose, knowing only too well that they knocked out Wroxham along the way.
'If we play to our best we will win, but if we don't and they play to their best they will win,' he said. 'They have been watched four times in the last three or four weeks, but we can sit and watch them all day and they could have two or three players who perform above their station on the night. My main concern is what we do.'
The match is a repeat of last season's First Division KO Cup final, which the Greens won 3-1 after extra time after falling behind to a Thetford penalty after just 33 seconds.
Gorleston last won the Senior Cup in 2001, when they beat Great Yarmouth in the final.
The Greens will be without the suspended Adam Thurtle following a recent sending off against Clacton – the first red card of his career. With Olly Thomson injured and Josh Armes picking up an ankle sprain in the Reserves Championship final last week, the Gorleston management have defensive issues to resolve.
• ROUTES TO THE FINAL
Gorleston: Yarmouth (h) 4-2 aet, Diss (h) 3-1, Norwich City (h) 2-1.
Thetford: Swaffham (h) 3-1, Holt (h) 3-2, Wroxham (h) 2-1, Norwich St John (h) 9-0.
Gorleston: Elliott Pride, Kyle Howell, Thomas Daniels, Reece Hunn, Eddie Thompson (captain), Andrew Howell, Chris Sandford, Gary Williams, Bradley Hough, Liam Harvey-Cooper), Jack Garrod, Christy Finch, Ali McKenna, Keegan Middleton, Mitch Forbes, Steve Taylor, Aaron Bowers-Huggins, Darren Cockrill.
Manager: Mark Scott.
Thetford: Ian Fancett, Aaron Joseph, Luke Bailey, Martin Carter, Mark Howard, Dan Morphew, Dave Richards, Liam Bolton, Tom Cusack, Shaun O'Donnell, Matt Dixon, Bruno Tavares, Simon Mann, Volter Rocha, Steve Davis.
Managers: Richard Daniels / Stu Larter.