UEA Football Club secured a historic result by beating Kings Lynn Town 1-0 in the Norfolk Senior Cup under the FDC floodlights in Bowthorpe.
A second-half goal from Richard Black was the difference against Norfolk’s second biggest club, with UEA now in the Senior Cup quarter-finals.
Linnets boss, Ian Culverhouse, sent a youthful side to Norwich, resting a number of senior players in a squad hit by injury and fatigue. However, despite lacking ex-professionals like Adam Marriott, Michael Gash, Ryan Jarvis and ex-Norwich City scholar Michael Clunan, Lynn did give a debut to experienced goalkeeper Paul Bastock, a lower-league journeyman who at the age of 48 holds the record for the most competitive appearances in world football.
And it was the young Linnets, the highest ranked side in the competition, who had the majority of the early possession, using their width to good effect. The slick surface created by a torrential downpour in the first half helped them make use of the flanks in a half relatively low on good chances.
UEA did feed a promising through-ball which was comfortably dealt with by Bastock, while Lynn replied with a chance smashed just over. UEA keeper Tom Smith was then called into action to make a smart save, but the offside flag was already up.
The FDC pitch has never been a carpet in central areas at the best of times, and the weather contributed to the scrappy first period. UEA pressed more in the final fifteen minutes. Livewire forward Ryan Swift hit the side-netting from a tight angle on the half-hour mark. Luke Young had an effort saved before the pacy winger was caught just offside.
UEA couldn’t make anything of a free-kick and then had a corner cleared after Swift and Young linked up well. UEA then put another free-kick straight at Bastock.
Smith saved a free-kick of his own with five minutes left in the half, which finished goalless after Young couldn’t get a true connection on a cross to Swift which agonisingly trickled wide.
UEA really turned on their attacking threat in the second half. There were calls from the impressive, UEA-dominated support for a penalty as Young was fouled in the D, but a free-kick on the edge of the area was correctly awarded, Swift lobbing a weak effort into Bastock’s grateful hands.
Smith was equal to another Linnets free-kick and soon UEA were on top.
The menacing Swift beat his man on the run but saw his shot parried. Rinor Plepolli’s resulting corner was delivered right into the danger zone, sparking a scramble in the six-yard box with Young and skipper Ben George in the thick of the action. But after what seemed like an age of the ball bobbling around the goalmouth without a decisive touch, it was centre-back Black who pounced, poking in the loose ball to put UEA ahead. Commanding defender Black has a habit of scoring when it matters, also having netted on Derby Day.
A 1-0 lead in a big game with plenty of time left on the clock (nearly 30 minutes) can make some teams jittery and nervous. Perhaps it was UEA’s good performance until this point that actually meant that getting a breakthrough eased the pressure and added impetus to their attack.
Young was dispossessed after a good run, while dangerous midfielder James Baughurst had an attempt saved, Bastock being alert to come out of his goal to keep the score at 1-0.
Another Plepolli corner was this time headed away from danger as UEA pressed forward, Young flashing a shot just wide and Baughurst seeing another attempt narrowly missed.
The game was by no means over, however, with three Lynn corners in quick succession somehow kept out by UEA’s disciplined defence, who were under immense pressure.
Swift had a shot deflected out for a corner, but for all UEA’s endeavour Lynn stayed tight at the back and the final score would stay at 1-0 for the nervy final minutes as UEA recorded a famous win, sparking wild celebrations afterwards from UEA’s players and the vocal support who turned up in their numbers.
UEA Head of Football, Paul Neary, has good form in the competition after he and his assistant Ray Harrison guided Downham Town to the Carrow Road final of last year’s competition.
He reflected: ‘I thought [the win] was thoroughly deserved. From start to finish I thought we were the better side. [Lynn] started fast, they started pinging the ball about, trying to dictate the play. We stuck to our game plan well in possession, out of possession and in transition.
‘The chances we created outnumbered their chances. We didn’t get overawed or intimidated. It was very, very good.’
On Lynn’s team selection, Neary said: ‘[Y]ou can only beat who’s in front of you.’
Club President Jody Scowcroft added: ‘[T]his result puts us on the map in Norfolk. We’re one of the top teams, we can beat anyone.
‘We don’t want to knock one of the biggest teams out of the cup and not win it!
‘There’s a real family atmosphere in the club now. I’m massively pleased to see everyone down here supporting, you can see what it means to the fans at the end, everyone celebrating, smiles on everyone’s faces.’
UEA have been drawn at home against Swaffham in January’s quarter-final, with the venue and kick-off time to be confirmed.