Wembley dream ends in tears
Paddy Davitt Dejected Wroxham captain Graham Challen admitted the Yachtsmen felt they had let down their large travelling contingent in yesterday's heart-breaking FA Vase final 6-1 defeat against holders Whitley Bay at Wembley.
Dejected Wroxham captain Graham Challen admitted the Yachtsmen felt they had let down their large travelling contingent in yesterday's heart-breaking FA Vase final 6-1 defeat against holders Whitley Bay at Wembley.
More than 2,500 Norfolk supporters saw Challen and experienced keeper Scott Howie involved in the calamitous mix-up that allowed Paul Chow to score the fastest ever goal at the national stadium.
Paul Cook drew Wroxham level but Andy Eastaugh's first half own goal and Bay's second half quartet consigned Norfolk's first finalists since 1994 to a heavy defeat.
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“I feel bitterly disappointed for them,” said Challen, who led his troops over to applaud the Wroxham contingent at the final whistle.
“So many family and friends have come down and that is when it really got to me - making that walk up the stairs to the Royal Box and coming down the other side I lost it a little bit. We play to win so to come second is not nice but we have lost to a team with some exceptional individuals who I am sure could play higher.
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“There were 500 odd teams who entered this competition and we put in some great performances to get here but when you get to the big stage and some of you freeze or don't play to your potential unfortunately that is something you will carry with you for a while. If we had a game of football in the next few days that would be better than having to wait eight odd weeks over the summer to get it out of our systems.”
Challen offered no excuses for the momentary lapse that allowed man-of-the-match Chow to open Whitley Bay's account after just 21 seconds - making it the quickest-ever Wembley cup final goal.
“The ball came over the top, Scott called for it I left it and we ended up hesitating,” he said. “The ball kicks up between us and their forward has been brave. Obviously when Scott called I expected him to collect it. Maybe in hindsight I should have taken the decision out of his hands and put it out for a corner but hindsight is a great gift. I don't think it was concentration because Scott and myself are probably two of the most experienced in the team.
“I don't think we could have been more focussed - we just made a decision that turned out to be the wrong one. That certainly wasn't the start we were looking for. We get back on level terms and they get a free kick that never was. Gary (Gilmore) got himself in the way of the ball and was penalised. Our lad at the back post tries to steer it out and it comes off his shin.”
Challen and his battle-hardened defence had only conceded six goals previous to the final in the whole of their historic FA Vase Wembley run.
“We conceded six goals in 12 games to get here so it's very disappointing and for myself and the back four,” he said. “I don't think we performed anywhere near our potential so on a personal level it's hugely disappointing and it will take a while to get over it. They are the best team we have played and you have to give them credit - the movement was something else although we probably sat off them and gave them too much respect.
“But, as I say, they were far the best team we have played in this competition and they would need to have an off day to give someone else a chance. Having said that, we conceded at the wrong times and every bit of bad luck seemed to end up in our net. 6-1 isn't probably a fair reflection for me because we could have shut up shop after the fourth went in but what is the point of that?”
Challen insists the Trafford Park outfit will emerge stronger next season from their Wembley experience.
“It has been a great ride but obviously it doesn't feel like that now,” he said. “We've lost 6-1 in the final but after a few days I'm sure on reflection when we get together and have a chat about it we'll look back on the run and the fact we played at Wembley and I'm sure it will be a positive experience.
“If anyone can get us mentally over this it is David Batch. We need to start preparing for next season and the manager will no doubt make additions to the squad but you need luck in cup competitions so whether we can come back here I don't know. It's not a given that you will get back to Wembley by any stretch of the imagination. The last time a Norfolk team got here was 16 years ago so we are under no illusions, but that will be the aim.”