Steve Adams header sees Long Melford to first ever Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup victory against Fakenham Town at Diss Town FC
Long Melford ended their 2018/19 season with silverware at Diss Town's Brewers Green Lane after a first-half header from captain Steve Adams proved to be enough to clinch a 1-0 victory against lower-league Fakenham Town in the Challenge Cup final.
The Villagers were making their first ever appearance in the Thurlow Nunn League's only cup competition which encompasses all their divisions.
It sees a difficult season for Melford end on a high after the club were threatened with relegation from the Premier Division going into the final day of the season. But three straight victories, including a crucial penultimate match day win at relegation rivals Great Yarmouth Town, proved enough to steer them to survival.
Monday's final saw manager Jamie Bradbury name Bury Town dual registered forward Emmanuel Machaya, who had scored five goals in his seven Melford starts, on the bench with only one enforced change from the 3-1 victory at Thetford Town in their last match. With full-back or wideman Kieran Michaels cup-tied, midfielder Pablo Chaves came into the starting XI.
Lower-league Fakenham, who finished sixth in the First Division North, their first season since relegation from the Premier Division, took the game to Bradbury's side in the early stages with Melford looking a tad nervous.
But in a scrappy start, which was to continue to sum up the 90 minutes, the best the Ghosts could manage was forcing a couple of early corners which their opponents comfortably dealt with.
Melford began to threaten at the other end and 27 minutes in Adams was close to connecting with a deep Chavez free-kick at the far post.
But the first real shot at goal came three minutes later when Chavez tried to catch out goalkeeper Tom Coombe at his near post from a free-kick 25 yards out, but his low shot skidded just wide.
The Melford supporters did not have to wait long for the opener though as in the 31st minute Ross Waugh played the ball down the right to get Jacob Brown in behind the defence and from his first time half-volleyed cross, Adams got ahead of his marker to nod it over the line from six yards out.
He almost had another a few minutes later but saw his header from a Chavez corner land on the roof of the net, which came hot on the heels of Ashley Skeggs' header finding the arms of Coombe.
A deflected effort in the 40th minute, which was comfortable for teenage goalkeeper Michael Betts to gather, and would have been going wide, was Fakenham's first shot of the match.
As they did the first half, the Ghosts took the game to their opponents as play resumed in the second period with Callum Brain way off target with an effort from just outside the penalty area, after his corner had come back out.
The same player appealed for a penalty after going down under the attentions of Ross Waugh from a deep free-kick soon after, but the referee saw nothing in it.
There was a big call for official Karl Sear in the 57th minute with Ross Waugh involved again. He clearly pulled down Fakenham's Ricky Claxton when he was about to run on to a long ball over the top, but the referee issued just a yellow card, indicating he did not feel it was a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Within three minutes he was brandishing his red card though, but in Fakenham's direction. There was a big reaction from the Melford bench and the crowd as Lewis Sturnam put a high boot in on Will Wingfield in front of the dugouts. The number eight had already been booked for a similar incident just before the interval and appeared to be shown a straight red card, following the fourth official giving his clear view.
It did not seem to impact against Fakenham though as they continued to be the more progressive side in the second period, with Alex Walpole heading against the crossbar from a free-kick before the referee signalled a foul in the box.
Up the other end there was a rare sight of goal for Melford with semi-final hero Wingfield's shot blocked ahead of Adams' shot cannoning off team-mate Nathan Rowe.
Daniel Tuddenham had a decent chance to level the final when found unmarked from a corner, but horribly scuffed his effort wide of the post. Shortly after, Connor Charlesworth also miss-hit a shot.
But the number nine had a few Melford hearts racing soon after when his attempted lob from almost halfway came down on the roof of the Betts' nett.
Brown fired a shot straight at opposing goalkeeper Coombe before, into added time, Charlesworth was controversially flagged offside when clean through.
Melford's supporters were highly grateful when the final whistle sounded on the end of four added minutes as they were able to celebrate their first cup final victory in 16 years.
Long Melford: Bett, R Waugh, Wingfield, Roy (Machay 62'), Skeggs, A Waugh, Ally, Brown, Adams (Bayliss 73'), Roe, Chaves (Judge 81'). Unused subs: Smith, Collins.
Fakenham Town: Coombe, Atkins, Field, Franks, Walpole, Tuddenham, Akersm Sturman, Charlesworth, Brain, Claxton (A Matthews 61'). Unused subs: Skipper, Youngs, G Matthews, Harvey.
* See Thursday's Suffolk Free Press and Friday's Lynn News for reaction.
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