For this Norfolk Senior cup tie the Bloaters were paired with Anglian Combination side Mundford who came to the Wellesley with a squad brimming with confidence and no shortage of Thurlow Nunn league experience. The home side were still without experienced players Putnins , McAvoy, Attree, Howell, McAra and Ager all missing, the Bloaters had a very youthful look about them. Young ‘keeper Fenn Nicholls retained his place after his heroics of the last round against Sheringham. Dan Pinheiro came into midfield and Philpott reverted back to left back, otherwise the team was similar to last weeks’ fixture with Smith and Baker paired together again up front.
The visitors got off to a dream start when a corner was converted by an unchallenged header from close range in the third minute. The lead was doubled after fifteen minutes as a cross from the left was not cleared properly and the lively centre forward reacted quickest to fire home from close range to leave the young home side shell-shocked. Baker and Smith were proving a handful for the Stags but the visitors remained defiant with the experienced Will Viner in goal. The Stags were more incisive and their workrate was paying dividends as another wasteful pass led to a cross in from the left and the number nine got between Forbes and Urry and chested the ball down and finished well to put the ball past Nicholls to give the Stags a three goal lead in under thirty minutes. Minutes later the Bloaters were presented with a lifeline as Jamie Smith capitalised on some hesitant defending to pull a goal back for the home side. The turning point in the match gave the Bloaters their second lifeline as Stags ‘keeper Viner hauled Smith over when through on goal and referee Ben Green had no option but to send off the visitors ‘keeper, and reduce Mundford to ten men. From Delaney’s free-kick the ball deflected into the path of Smith but this time the big striker’s effort went wide of the target. The body language of the home side had now been completely reversed as they sensed a way back into the match. Urry powered forwards and sent in a dangerous cross but the visitor’s stand-in ‘keeper was not tested. Baker and Smith combined again and this time Smith drilled in a powerful low shot that found the net to make it 2-3 just before half time. Smith again breached the Stags’ defence but his shot veered wide as referee Green brought an eventful first half to a close.
HT Bloaters 2 Mundford 3
With both sides benefitting from the half-time break the game was set for an intriguing second period. Philpott limped off before the impressive Smith hit another powerful shot over the bar and the Stags could have extended their lead when another free header from a corner was headed wide from close range. With the second half seventeen minutes old Jamie Smith completed his hat-trick when he latched onto Barnes’ header and fired home to make the scores level. To their credit Mundford did not look like they were playing with only ten men as the second half swung from end to end. Nicholls had to be sharp as the visitors mounted an impressive attack on the home goal.
Youth players Halliday and Dalton were introduced for their first team debuts and both youngsters acquitted themselves very well in a tough game. The ten man visitors were beginning to tire and the home side should have completed the comeback in normal time but the visitors were in mood to bow out without a fight. Both sides had chances in the dying minutes, but the scores remained level as the penalty shoot-out loomed.
FT Bloaters 3 Mundford 3
The home side struck five perfect penalties and young ‘keeper Nicholls repeated his heroics of the previous week with a fine save, to win the shoot-out 5-4 and progress to the quarter finals where they will play Wroxham (a) on Wednesday evening, unfortunately this game will also be behind closed doors.
Bloaters’ manager Rob McCombe concluded “Cup football is about the result but for 30 mins today we deserved nothing. At 3-0 I knew we weren’t out of it as we hadn’t started – an injury break gave us the opportunity to reset and we blitzed them in the last 15 mins of the 1st half to give us a shot. It was a terrific response from the boys and I was confident we would win the game from that point. The injuries/missing players is taking its toll but delighted in 2 good debuts for Tyler & Alex to top off the win.”
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