Yachtsmen hit for six at Wembley
Paddy Davitt Whitley Bay 6, Wroxham 1: Brian Clough famously said it only took a second to score a goal. Wroxham's FA Vase fate was sealed moments into each half.
Brian Clough famously said it only took a second to score a goal.
Wroxham's FA Vase fate was sealed moments into each half.
Bay centre half and captain Leon Ryan punted clear just after the kick-off. Yachtsmen's centre half and captain Graham Challen didn't. Hesitation proved fatal as Paul Chow rounded Scott Howie to slot home the fastest cup final goal at the revamped home of football.
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What followed was a cruel mauling for David Batch's side on the biggest stage on the biggest footballing day of their lives. Wembley has no hiding places. Not even with 80,000 empty seats.
The battered and bruised Paul Cook dragged the Yachtsmen level on 12 minutes with a close range tap-in after Bay failed to deal with Shaun Howes' inswinging free-kick.
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But when semi-final hero Andy Eastaugh diverted Richard Hodgson's cross past Howie just four minutes later it visibly drained the fighting spirit from the Ridgeons League outfit. After scaling K2, Everest proved insurmountable.
Old Big 'Ead would have been positively purring at Lee Kerr's fine solo effort before the smattering of corporate punters had re-taken their seats after half-time. The wide player drifted left, then darted right to curl a sublime third over and around Howie. Wroxham's race was already run.
Bay's second half goal scoring trio Adam Johnston, Paul Robinson and Josh Gillies ensured the history books will forever show Wroxham were on the end of the one of the heaviest cup final defeats at the famous stadium.
But history should not judge Batch's men too harshly.
For any Norfolk club to reach Wembley is cause for celebration. For one with an average attendance of just over three figures, it borders on the miraculous.
“Obviously the boys are devastated but I am proud of what they did,” said Batch. “Ourselves and Whitley Bay were the only teams out of 512 to achieve this. I would rather have lost at Wembley than Gorleston in the first round. We've had some battles on the way and we have been really resolute but in this game it just didn't happen.
“That is life, but I would have rather lost in the final than the semi-final. We played a team in the quarter-final and their chairman took great delight telling me that it would feel a lot worse losing in a semi-final. I said I wouldn't know because I haven't done either. We had a good pop at it but we were beaten by a better side.
“I've already said it to the players, and right now they don't feel like hearing it, but I couldn't be any prouder. They are a good set of lads, a good team.
“We have a lot of togetherness, a lot of trust there and I feel, and they feel, that they can be better.”
Batch knows his men could have done things differently. Yet Wroxham's Wembley architect was loathe to accept some might have frozen in the hot house atmosphere.
It's not every game you get introduced to dignitaries on a red carpet before pausing for the national anthem ahead of the real action.
“It's an easy one to say and I suppose it's an easy one for me to say yes,” said Batch. “Certainly our centre backs have been very, very strong all season and haven't given much joy to anyone, but in this game they did. Whether that was the occasion, who knows, maybe they were just due a bad game.
“I'd prefer not to say that because they are honest lads. They do really well week in, week out and they were maybe due a bad one.”
Batch was philosophical about the gift offered to Whitley Bay hitman Chow after 21 seconds.
“It wasn't the ideal start,” he said, “I don't know how many seconds it was - in our semi-final we scored after about seven or eight so I suppose what goes around comes around. It was a weird one and we certainly didn't plan for that one. When it goes over Graham Challen's head and bounces I actually said on the bench, 'oh that's great for Scott to have an early touch,' but the ball almost bounces vertically, their fella nips in and scores.
“We got back in the game quite quickly and at that point I thought we looked quite comfortable but what we then did is throw another one in.
“It was something we haven't done all season and it's a shame because Scott has been tremendous for us this season. The same goes for the centre halves but, similarly, you could argue we wouldn't have got to Wembley but for all those three so I'm not going to point fingers. We win and lose as a team.”
On and off the pitch. Batch made a special point of saluting Wroxham's travelling fans who made the Wembley pilgrimage.
“They were brilliant, I couldn't have asked for any more and I thought it was important that at the end the players went and showed their appreciation,” he said. “People have paid a lot of money to come down and watch us and we haven't given them what they wanted.
“They put a lot of time and effort in and the ones who have followed us all the way through I am sure enjoyed the ride. It's just a shame the many who don't come every week saw a different Wroxham - but it happens.”