Marlborough boss Mark beats final curse
Marlborough stalwart Mark Jones feared his chances of getting to Carrow Road had gone after experiencing semi-final agony six times as a player.
But this week he wore a broad smile after finally booking his place at the hallowed venue.
But it is as a first-time manager that Mark will be heading for Norfolk’s theatre of dreams after guiding the north city pub side into the Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup final.
Mark has been a pillar of the team since its early days when Marlborough won the first of eight top flight titles in 1997 and he also shared in their six league cup successes.
When Marlborough finally got through to Carrow Road, winning the trophy by beating El Sol in 2009, defender Mark was one notable absentee from the team, having decided to stop playing the season before. But a twist of fate gave him another chance when he was asked to take over as manager this term. And Sunday’s 2-0 semi-final win over Wymondham Rangers has finally produced the longed-for breakthrough. At last the curse has been broken.
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“I had six failed attempts at getting to the final, so I know exactly how Wymondham Rangers players feel,” said Mark, 41, after Sunday’s 2-0 win at Eaton Park.
But his side were made to battle hard by Rangers who would have had the upper hand had it not been for an outstanding display by Marlborough goalkeeper Stuart Palmer.
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“He kept us in the game in the first half,” said Jones.
Playing with the wind after the break Marlborough began to assert and went ahead in the 56th minute. Danny McKail latched on to a good through ball and with the Wymondham goalkeeper committing himself, McKail finished smartly to send Marlborough into the lead.
They clinched the tie when right back Ricky George popped up to net 10 minutes from the end.Another through ball split the Wymondham defence and George was on hand to slide the ball past the keeper and send the Marlborough fans and players into raptures.
Jones praised the beaten opponents. “They’re a good team. It’s the first time I have come up against them.
“They put us under quite a lot of pressure in the first half and our goalkeeper Stuart Palmer, who has been outstanding this season, kept us in it.”
He is looking forward to the final with old foes Dog House.
“A lot of the boys know each other. It should be a great game. There is quite a lot of banter going round already.”
After a rare trophyless campaign last season, several new signings were made as the squad was revamped.
“We brought in eight or nine players and they have mixed in well with the regulars,” said Jones.
Trying to keep everybody happy is the challenge but there is plenty of action to come with Marlborough chasing a treble.
They are still in the league cup and very much in the title race mix, along with the Grove, Acle Rangers and Wymondham Rangers.
Jones said: “They are a great bunch of boys.
“You could not ask for more in terms of keenness and wanting to play, and when you look at what has happened to some other teams this season, you realise that’s a massive part of what you need.”
He added: “There were no real expectations this season. To be in the final is fantastic for me. Whatever happens it was always going to be a bonus.”
Meanwhile two-time competition winners Dog House booked their fifth final appearance in the last six years as they came from behind to win their semi-final against St Faiths 3-2.
Dog House were distinctly second best in the first half and trailed at the break to a penalty, described as “dubious” by secretary Ian Lythgoe. Dog House raised their game after the break and hit back with a slightly fortuitous penalty when James Pipe scored from the spot after John Curtis tumbled. Pipe then fired his side ahead straight from a corner but the game Division One opponents battled back five minutes from time to force extra time.
The decisive goal came when Scott Woodgate netted from close range after another Pipe effort.
A dramatic goalline clearance in the dying seconds from Neil Symonds, who manages the side with Andy Eastaugh, saw Dog House go through.
“I think it will be a good final,” said Lythgoe.
“Don’t ask me to call it either way.
“They have beaten us in the league this season but we have got a good record against them over the years.
“They are always close games and I can’t see it being any different. Last year we never turned up against AFC Wanderers who deservedly beat us 3-2 but hopefully this year it will be different.”