Report by Kevin Forbes / Pics by Steve Wood

The lockdown has not been kind to Rob McCombe’s Bloaters team. Injuries and work commitment left a large hole in the playing department of the football club. But as the saying goes “as one door closes another opens” and despite several changes the Bloaters travelled to Trafford Park with an extremely young squad. With Putnins still injured, youngster Fenn Nicholls retained his place after two heroic penalty shoot-outs which has seen the young ‘keeper make two saves to help the Bloaters into successive rounds. There were first team starting debuts for Seventeen year olds Tyler Halliday and Ryan Jacobs at full backs, a youthful centre midfield of George, McCombe and Barnes with other recent youth players Ethan Hodge and  Alex Dalton  on the bench. Senior players Forbes, Urry , Delaney, Smith and Baker also kept their places for this tough-looking encounter against Eastern Counties League leaders Wroxham.

The Yachtsmen showed their early intent with a shot at goal in the first minute but the visitors broke quickly and some good play between Delaney and Halliday saw the young full-back power forwards but his cross drifted out for a goal kick. On the other side Jacobs sent over a great cross as he marauded forwards, but again the ball evaded the Bloaters strikers. The classy home side were slick in their passing and the movement of the forward players was causing problems, but the young Bloaters stuck to their task and broke swiftly when they did get possession. The busy McCombe was enjoying the midfield tussle and he also sent over a dangerous cross, again smothered away by the efficient home defence. For all their possession the home side had to wait until the twenty third minute when the Bloaters defence was finally breached with Curtis latching onto a delicate through ball and finishing past Nicholls to give the hosts a much-deserved lead. Seconds later Miles burst through, but his effort was tipped around the post by Nicholls. Despite a tough start to the game the Bloaters were working hard and competing against a very talented home side. Baker had an effort, but under pressure from Huckerby he dragged his shot wide. Fatadjo was busy  for the home side and his pace and trickery was a constant threat to the visitors but they were hanging on and fighting for their lives. Delaney on the right wing was proving a handful for the hosts and he earned his side a free kick that Smith headed goalwards and Baker’s shot was blocked in front of goal as the resilient visitors mounted a mini-resurgence. From a Bloater’s corner some good play between George, Delaney and Smith saw another effort by Jamie Smith fired wide of the target. The home side continued to make most of the running and Fatadjo was halted by a superb challenge by Jacobs as he was about to extend the hosts’ lead. Midfielder King then hit the bar with a thunderous drive from a home corner and then a header wide of the upright could also have extended the Yachtsmen’s lead. With the score at 1-0 the visitors were always in with a chance despite the constant probing by the home side. Referee Adrian George blew his whistle to end an entertaining first half dominated by the home side, although the young Bloaters were battling for their lives to stay in the tie.

HT Wroxham 1 Gt.Yarmouth 0

With the home side having a slender single goal advantage it was he Bloaters who were first to show in the second half as Baker, bravely playing with an injury, headed narrowly over the bar from a Delaney free-kick. The plucky visitors then had a good spell of possession as the early part of the half was played in the Yachtsmen’s half. This time it was the Yachtsmen who were breaking quickly as first Hill and then King sent in long-range efforts narrowly wide of the target. But the Bloaters were enjoying their best spell in the game and a good chance came when Smith burst through the home defence and his shot across goal flashed agonisingly past Sutton’s upright. Delaney was then sent tumbling as it appeared the home side were beginning to lose some of their composure as the visitors went hunting for an equaliser . Urry broke up play in the middle of the pitch and went on a blistering run through the Yachtsmen’s defence but his effort was again smothered by the efficient home defence. After a good spell by the visitors the Yachtsmen then doubled their lead as Taylor scored from close range in the seventieth minute and it seemed the young Bloaters were devastated after all their endeavours to get back into the game in the second half. From almost grabbing an equaliser they were now 2- 0 down and it looked like the game was up as Grant Holt entered the play to add his experience to see the game out for the Yachtsmen. The final twenty minutes belonged to the home side as they re-asserted their authority on the game and it was no surprise when substitute Cooper fired in a low drive past Nicholls. Youngsters Hodge and Dalton were given some valuable experience and Dalton made an impact immediately as he robbed the fullback to set up a chance for Baker, but Sutton saved easily. Pinheiro came on to replace the injured Urry with the excellent Cam Barnes reverting to centre back. On the ninety minute mark the excellent Ryan Miles sprinted clear of a tired Bloaters defence to make it 4-0 to the hosts.

A spirited performance by a very young Bloaters side against a team that will take some stopping in this competition, well refereed by Adrian George and his assistants. Proud Bloaters’ Manager McCombe   concluded The score line was not a reflection of the performance.Wroxham were superb but at 1-0, I felt we were the better side and had a couple of great chances to score – but that’s football.   Huge positives to take from the game – we went in with 11 first teamers unavailable but the lads who came in were excellent. We stuck true to the club values and finished the game with 6 of last seasons u18s including a debut for 17yo Ryan who was brilliant. I’m just gutted the score line detracts from such a terrific performance from us on so many levels.”

FT Wroxham 4 Gt. Yarmouth 0

Nicholls, Halliday, Jacob,s Urry, Forbes, Barnes, Delaney, McCombe, Baker  ©, George, Smith Subs Hodge, Dalton, Pinheiro, Atkins