Shannocks book place in Senior Cup final

David Thorpe Ten years ago Sheringham were in Division Four of the Anglian Combination, rebuilding the century old North Norfolk club in junior football after losing their ground and coming close to going out of business.

David Thorpe

Ten years ago Sheringham were in Division Four of the Anglian Combination, rebuilding the century old North Norfolk club in junior football after losing their ground and coming close to going out of business.

But on March 25 the Shannocks will complete an extraordinary turn-round in their fortunes by lining up against Wroxham or Norwich United at Carrow Road in the final of the Norfolk Senior Cup after a semi-final comeback win which will go down in club legend.

Holders Dereham were leading 3-2, deep into injury time, when Roy Beavis slotted the equaliser.

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Shannocks assistant-manager Karl Fox admits the elation at saving the game was swiftly followed by trepidation over the prospect of having to force their weary limbs through another half hour on a gluepot of an Aldiss Park pitch.

But such worries were swiftly swept away as, with Dereham doubly deflated, Kristian Gleave summoned one last great effort to find space on the left and deliver a cross which keeper Shaun Marshall could only palm out to Olly King, who scored the winner from point blank range.

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"We'd gone mental when we equalised, but after the winner everyone was just running round like headless chickens," said manager John Kowalyk, the man who masterminded Sheringham's rapid climb from third division to Premier with three successive title successes starting in 2001, his first season at the club. "Some of them were crying, including Danny Tanpi, who is a huge Norwich City fan and couldn't believe he'd be getting to play at Carrow Road."

"I think if it had gone to extra time Dereham would have won because all of our players were totally knackered and had given everything.

"Just like in Manchester United's famous Champions League final win, everybody thought the game had passed us by, so to win as we did was so emotional especially having lost to Dereham in the quarter-finals two years ago and the semi-finals, after having two men sent off and being two-up, last year.

"This had been our final. I think we are 39 places below Dereham in the pyramid and to have reached the real final is going to be fanastic both for the club and the final."

Kowalyk revealed he had over 60 congratulatory texts on Saturday night - while Fox revealed he had one from the boss himself at 4.20am saying he "couldn't sleep" because of the excitement.

Ironically the post-match celebrations were initially relatively subdued because eight of the Sheringham players were due to be playing for Delaney's in the Norfolk Sunday Cup semi-finals yesterday, with another Carrow Road final on the cards.

"We'd been in the bar for 45 minutes, knowing we had to be careful how much we drunk because we had a game the next morning, when a text came through saying the game was postponed," he said. "After that we were able to have a really good night."

Fox felt Dereham players had been possibily guilty of "taking their foot off the pedal" after Nicky Howell had headed them into a 3-2 lead with seven minutes to go.

He feels that could have been difference, adding: "In the dressing room beforehand we'd said that whatever happened we'd be going flat out to the final whistle. And that's what happened. We never stopped fighting."

Andy Eastaugh's header had given Sheringham an interval lead. Adam Gusterson equalised midway through the second half only for Stuart Baker to again head the Shannocks in front ten minutes later, paving the way for the dramatic finale.

Sheringham have been in two previous Senior Cup finals, finishing runners-up in 1935 and 1971.

Wroxham and Norwich United play their re-arranged semi-final tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Sheringham's bid for second place in the Anglian Combination Premier Division was helped when two of their rivals, Cromer Town and Norwich Union, drew 1-1.

Tom Daves scored for the Crabs, Ben Soanes for Union, who lie second but 14 points adrift of leaders Wroxham Reserves.

The best Premier Division game of the day saw Brandon beat Halvergate 4-3 with goals from Tony Wright, Duncan Hewitt, Mark Winstone and John Waites. Jamie Long (two) and David Lawrence responded.

Hindringham beat Mattishall 3-1 in the only other Premier game to beat the weather.

Kirkley Res could have overtaken Dereham Res at the top of Division One - but lost 4-0 at Attleborough, for whom Daniel Whitman bagged a hat-trick.

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