Barrett gets his Magpies reward
CHRIS LAKEY Dereham 1, Norwich Utd 0: Loyalty proved it has its rewards last night as Dereham skipper Graham Barrett scored the only goal of the game to give the Magpies victory in their first ever Norfolk Cup final appearance.
Perhaps it was fitting that Graham Barrett should be hailed as Dereham's Norfolk Senior Cup hero.
The 25-year-old Magpies skipper is the epitome of all that is good about Robert Taylor's transformed team, whose journey from relegation battlers a year ago could well go full circle in another year's time when the issues at the top end of the Ridgeons Premier Division are being settled.
Taylor hauled the club up by its straps and took them to Carrow Road last Wednesday for the greatest single night in the club's history - thanks to Barrett's second-half goal -and, having picked up one piece of silverware they'll be hungry for more.
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For the moment, though, it's all about savouring victory in their first ever Senior Cup final appearance.
Dereham went into the match as clear favourites against a struggling United team, manager by former Norwich City assistant Paul Franklin.
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With the support of the majority of the 1564 crowd, Dereham were the first to show, Danny Wright testing United's keeper Darren Young's nerves early on with a challenge.
But United weren't overawed and it was clear Dereham were in for a frustrating time against a five-man midfield and a defence brilliantly marshalled by Matthew Banham.
Wright flashed a header across goal on 17 minutes after good work by Sam Willis and then had a better chance soon after, following good work by Nicky Howell, only to get the ball stuck under his feet.
Nathan Pauling had to scramble to keep out a wayward cross by United's Jamie Hunton as the underdogs went searching for a confidence-boosting half-time lead, but Wright could have given that particular advantage to dereham,, but for Ollie King's excellent block.
All of Dereham's best chances were falling to leading scorer Wright., none better than a header which crashed against the underside of the cross bar.
It wasn't the greatest feast of football, but the second half was a different story as both teams upped the tempo and, to their credit, finally went for the jugular in the latter stages. Having sparred with each other it needed the catalyst of a goal to set the match off, and Barrett provided it on 75 minutes.
Howell did well to get past Gennaro Romano down Dereham's right side and slung in a teasing cross which Wright couldn't get too much on to. Keeper Young did get a touch, but only to Barrett, who returned it with bells on to give Dereham the lead.
With just 15 minutes to go, Norwich through everything at Dereham and, on any other day, would have equalised. But the law of averages went AWOL as Banham and Steve Shipley saw shots blocked, sub Mark Roper had a header cleared off the line and then Banham hit the crossbar.
Dereham are known for their scoring - their 96 from 40 league games in bettered only by two other teams - but it was their stoic defence which ensured the Cup went back to Aldiss Park.
Dereham: Pauling, O Willis, Challen, Nichols (Amis 58), Foley, Howell, Renaut (Self 24), Moody (Ferguson 86), S Willis, Barrett, Wright.
Norwich Utd: Young, Wale (Holden 85), Banham, Ager, Romano, Robbins (Murphy 70), Shipley, Smith, Hunton (Roper 81), King, Atkins.
Referee: Mike George.
Man of the match: Nicky Howell.