Thurlow Nunn Premier League title is a dream come true for Dereham Town
- Credit: Matthew Usher
The remarkable rise and rise of Dereham Town was capped on Saturday as the Magpies clinched the Thurlow Nunn Premier League title.
Only 15 years after playing Anglian Combination football at the modest surroundings of the Rec, the Magpies were flying high as champions at their impressive Aldiss Park complex.
The Magpies were 3-0 up at half-time through Sam Borrer and a brace by Aaron Kay. And Matt Henman's team added two more after the break from Luke Tuttle and a Scott Roberts penalty to seal a comfortable win – and spark wild celebrations among the crowd of 231 to the strains of Queen's 'We Are The Champions' blaring over the tannoy.
It is the biggest achievement in the club's history and ensures Dereham will go up to the Ryman League – just four tiers below the Football League.
Magpies boss Matt Henman said: 'I really wanted the lads to feel what it is like to win a title. It's a great feeling for all of us. We wanted to go up as champions, not second or third, because no one can ever take that feeling of winning a league away from you. It really is a great feeling and one you will never forget.
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'I still remember when I won the Anglian Combination League and I have seen some of those lads who I played with back then today, and still even now we talk about it and how it felt. Once we got into a position, probably three or four weeks ago, we said that we wanted to go up as champions for that reason. and I'm delighted that our players will be able to do that in years to come.'
The victory was a great response after the midweek defeat against nearest rivals Wisbech.
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Henman added: 'Since Tuesday I have been counting down the hours and the minutes until today's game and it wasn't the nicest game to watch but we scored important goals today at important times. Once we got the second and third goals we had some breathing space and then it is just about counting down the minutes.'
Henman also began the talk about next season, but only after saying that the players may need to twist his arm in order for him to join them on their end of season trip to Ibiza.
'There is a short break in the makings and I think the rumour is that I am going, but I may be a bit old for that! Saying that one or two of them might twist my arm tonight, so you never know. But the important thing is they can enjoy their break, unwind and spend some time together after a great season.
'We have been looking ahead for the last month or so and now we can focus our efforts on the Ryman League and making sure we have the right squad and the right group of people, in order for us to compete in that league.'
Henman highlighted the contribution of players such as Olly Wilis, Adam Gusterson and Nicky Howell this season.
'Olly, Gus and Nick are great servants of this club and they could have left and could have left for more money, over the years but they didn't.
'I'm really pleased for them and to everyone on and off the pitch who has put their heart and soul into this club. The core of the team has been brilliant and you have to have a strong spine to win a league title and we have shown that this season.'
The Magpies made a great start when Tuttle cushioned a Craig Bussens cross from the left into the path of Borrer, who slammed the ball past Clacton keeper Keith Tucker from 16 yards in the fourth minute.
Dereham increased their lead in the 21st minute when Tuttle found Kay, who cut inside before driving home a low drive which deflected in off Clacton defender Adam Daniels.
Kay netted Dereham's third, and his second, four minutes later when he again worked his way in from the left, skipping three challenges before drilling another low shot into the corner of Tucker's net.
After the break Dereham keeper Andy Wilton made a good save with his legs from Adam Daniels and had to be alert to grasp Tom Austin's near post header.
But it was a brief respite for the visitors. Howell was only denied by a great save from Tucker before setting up the fourth goal in the 68th minute with a perfect cross for Tuttle, who netted with an overhead shot.
Two minutes later the Magpies won a penalty when skipper Willis was upended and Roberts coolly converted to complete Dereham's nap hand.
With the game comfortably won the Eastern Counties League trophy appeared from the clubhouse, adorned in black and white ribbons.
After the match Gary Osbourne, sales director for Thurlow Nunn, presented the medals and the trophy.
Dereham's final home game of the season against Diss Town has been rearranged for this Friday at 7.45pm.