Saturday, 9 April 2016

Recipe for a Norfolk Stuffing

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Friday 8 April 2016 at The Recreation Ground, Mundford Road
Thetford Town 4 Gorleston 0
Eastern Counties Premier Division (Step 5)
Ground 584, chosen because it was a match that mattered to at least one of the teams involved.
Pre-match preparation
This is Thetford Town’s last home game of the season – their other four are all away, and they are uncomfortably close to the relegation zone.  This is a division of twenty teams, and if the same history applies as in that other Premier League, Thetford are still ten short of forty points.  Gorleston have done enough to be safe in lower-mid table, and Thetford won the reverse fixture fairly recently.  It feels like a “must win” for the home side otherwise there could be an uncomfortable ending to the season.
This match in one sentence
A hard-fought first half eventually led to a comfortable win even before home supporters provoked the visiting keeper into his own red mist.
So what?
That's thirty-three points for Thetford, who are more likely now go on to keep their Premier Division place and further fixtures with Gorleston.  Relegation rivals Swaffham Town, 5pts behind but with a game in hand, have lost eight in a row.
The drama unfolds
Both teams started at a good pace.  Gorleston’s defence looked solid early on and they had the first real chance, Keegan Middleton flicking the ball to himself and creating the chance for a left-footer just wide.  The first of several niggles came midway through the half.  A Gorleston player made a miracle recovery after a tackle that earned a yellow card for the defender.  Yes, an uncontrollable lunge, but someone has been watching too much Match of the Day.  Thetford gradually got on top territorially but could not create the end product.  Then out of nowhere, Gorleston pinged the woodwork as the game neared the interval.  In stoppage time, Thetford won a freekick on the edge of the box and here is what happened.  For some reason (incompetence!) I did not make a note of the scorer so will edit when the official result is published.

1-0  at half-time

Gorleston started the second half well but then conceded a scruffy close-range goal.  I think the scorer was Joe Allen but would stand to be corrected.  2-0 after 51 mins

Insult was added to injury when they were then caught on the break.  Robbie Priddle timed his run to perfection and scored with a low shot to remove any doubt about the destination of the points.  3-0 after 61 mins

The game looked as if it was petering out when the visiting keeper Taurean Molloy reacted to a spectator behind the goal.  It is almost certain that something provocative was said, and it is certain that the keeper moved towards the spectator and instigated a physical contact.  Thetford players got between the spectators and other Gorleston players, and to be fair they seemed to be defusing the situation quickly. The ref really had no choice but to produce a straight red, and from where I was sitting it looked as if the keeper then made contact with the ref’s arm before being ushered away by other players.  I thought it strange that he was eventually escorted from the field with the arm of the HOME number 8 around his shoulder.  It all left a rather sour taste.  There is no doubt that the home club regulars would be able to identify the agent provocateur.

When Gorleston headed a good chance over the bar with a minute left, it summed up their night.  There was time for a sub to belt in a fourth goal past the replacement keeper (defender Dan Goodrum) in stoppage time.  Final score 4-0

There was plenty of whooping and hollering from the home dressing room as I left the ground.  That’s what it must mean when you keep your place in the Premier League.
Ground Pix
I really wanted to avoid county stereotypes but this was the first thing I noticed on arrival.  Maybe the placement next to the tea bar is a coincidence.  To be fair, it must be a relevant advert in these parts but I was really bemused even more by the cartoon image of the scientist on the left.

Match Pix

Five Years of Modus Hopper Random
A five-goal thriller from exactly three years ago as London Tigers won at Holmer Green in the Spartan South Midlands League.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
This will properly mess up my spreadsheet.  No doubt that the home side’s orange earns the win and the clean sheet.  The original visiting keeper wore white and conceded three of the goals before dismissal after 78 minutes.  The replacement (one of the original outfielders) wore blue and conceded one.
What Next?
Burgess Hill Town v Hendon on Saturday for another step 3 tick.  Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!

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