Bloaters fans wait to see if players return

DESPITE being hit by a players’ revolt against a background of claims that match fees and expenses are owed, Great Yarmouth Town have a scheduled home game with Hadleigh United tomorrow (Wellesley, 3).

After missing Tuesday’s Norfolk Senior Cup defeat for which the majority of the club’s first team players made themselves unavailable, manager Paul Tong has been asked and said he will be back to take charge of the match.

But the composition of the team was anyone’s guess at the time of writing, writes Gerry Brown.

“Nobody’s bigger than the club,” Tong said midweek. “But this stance is not of my doing. When I have 11 of my players, and I brought them all here, taking this decision I have to respect and support them. Without them I’m nothing. A deal is on the table. We’ll just have to see if its acceptable to all concerned.”

The Ridgeons League have agreed to Yarmouth’s request to postpone tomorrow’s Reserves match at Whitton United to help the Bloaters through a difficult period.

After tomorrow, Yarmouth’s next game is on Monday, December 27 (Boxing Day) at Norwich United (kick-off 11.30am).

Great Yarmouth Town 1, King’s Lynn Town 5

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Strikers are a commodity eagerly sought by football clubs, but not the kind that dealt the Bloaters a severe knock this week.

With a players’ dispute about expenses and payments blown open at the weekend, the majority of Yarmouth’s first team squad withheld their labour for Tuesday’s Norfolk Senior Cup game at the Wellesley.

In a radio interview broadcast on Wednesday, former chairman Arthur Fisk said the club knew it had a problem and was making every effort to resolve the situation. “But the club will survive,” he stressed.

Reserves manager Kevin Cruickshank took the team for the game after first team boss Paul Tong took the difficult decision to stay away out of sympathy for the missing players.

The majority of the side were reserve players with the addition of four non-striking young first teamers. Five players made their first team debuts.

The result predictably went against Yarmouth, even though Lynn had five players missing themselves through suspension or injury. But with their resources and player depth their losses were not apparent. Lynn joint boss Kevin Boon was magnanimous in victory and admitted he was just glad to get the game on as it meant his three suspended players would now be available for their FA Vase match tomorrow, should it escape the threatened return of snow.

Yarmouth’s Cruickshank was full of praise for his squad. “They were tremendous,” he said. “They were a credit to the club and themselves; they never gave up, and played some good football at times. We kept the score down to one for a long time in the first half and if we could have gone into the break with that we would have been very happy.”

Cruickshank has been with Yarmouth since the 1980s as first a junior player then a manager at all levels, and although the situation has caused him sleepless nights and a mountain of phone calls, he always exudes an atmosphere of calm amidst any storm. His heart belongs to the club and his loyalty is utterly commendable.

As to the match itself, Robbie Harris destroyed Yarmouth with a hat-trick, but Ross Catchpole notched Yarmouth’s consolation second-half goal, his first for the senior team.

Harris opened the scoring after only four minutes from a Jack Defty knockdown and the pessimists must have thought the floodgates were opened. But the Yarmouth players were not going to allow themselves to be dominated, and Catchpole demanded a good save by Alex Street a minute later as they counter-attacked.

Jake Reed then shot wide with only Street to beat. In another minute, Reed crossed for reserve player Michael White at the far post but he hurried his shot which also went wide.

Glen Spooner showed the spirit of the side with two great tackles, and with target-man Defty’s radar off-target Yarmouth were holding their own despite being under the pressure of the situation. However, a Martin McNeil missed header at the far post after 30 minutes was a big let-off for the Bloaters.

Lynn keeper Street had been under-worked for a time but still showed his alertness when two searching free-kicks from Joe Bell warmed his hands on a cold night. Peter Souza in the Bloaters’ goal had performed excellently so far and nicked the ball off Defty’s toe as the big man took a poor touch but the Lynn striker finally found the mark after 40 minutes with a tremendous shot from the corner of the area that few keepers would have saved.

And three minutes later, it looked all over bar the shouting as Harris gained his second goal after a Jamie Thurlbourne cross from the left, nudging the ball home with his chest.

Yarmouth brought on substitutes Charlie McAra and Nathan Kemp for the second half but Defty’s poor form in front of goal continued with a lazy header from a Patrick Bexfield cross. Souza then cheered the home supporters with a magnificent flying save six minutes into the second half. Yarmouth were not being hurried into massive clearances and were playing the ball out of defence quite superbly.

After a series of Lynn corners, the Bloaters got the goal they deserved and none more so than midfielder Catchpole who looped the ball towards the far corner of goal where it dropped under the bar and into the net in the 68th minute, with surprised defenders arguing as to who should have cleared it.

When Defty took a leaf out of the youngster’s book and tried a similar tactic at the other end he was out of luck as his effort went wide.

The Lynn man again missed a “sitter” when Harris crossed to the near post, and it was left to Harris himself to show the way with his hat-trick goal in the 78th minute after he dribbled through the Yarmouth defence.

Two minutes later, he might have had a fourth but his far-post header rebounded off Souza for Lynn’s eighth corner.

The closing minutes were dominated by Lynn and a fifth goal came with the 90 minutes up, Lynn reserve player Gino Rivoti beating Souza at the far post from a Thurlbourne deep cross.

Yarmouth Town: P Souza, J Hart, J Bell, G Barnden, O McCarthy, G Spooner, R Catchpole, D Smith, J Reed, J Bryanton, M White. Subs: T Gardiner (for Bryanton, 52), C McAra (for Hart, 46), N Kemp (for White, 46).

Attendance: 92.

Great Yarmouth Town 1, Histon Reserves 2

With rumours and speculations of players’ “strike” action in the air, an understandably dysfunctional Bloaters’ team yet again failed to secure their first home league win of the season. All was joy for the second-last placed visitors however as they secured their first away win.

Yarmouth welcomed back Jake Reed and sprung a surprise with Gareth Palmer wearing the number nine shirt in place of the unavailable Gavin Norman. With captain Craig Roberts possibly playing his last game before moving to Essex, he it was who helped set up the game’s first chance in the fourth minute with a pass to Dominic Smith that was then played on to Fernando Vide who shot well but just wide.

From the goal kick, Histon broke quickly and Michael Hilton was quick off his line to clear with his feet before then saving a 20-yard free kick awarded for a foul by Palmer.

Yarmouth won the first corner of the game after eight minutes but Luke Fell slipped as he took it and the ball sailed harmlessly over the bar. Histon soon equalised the corner-count as Jonny King stopped a cross by heading behind. Hilton again came out to kick clear in the 10th minute before Yarmouth won their second corner in the 12th.

Reed, back from his extended suspension, had a chance after 14 minutes but from a great Smith pass into the area screwed his shot into the side-netting. Chris Duffy, making his debut (not counting the abandoned game at Dereham), tussled with a Histon player and was booked after 16 minutes

Hilton conceded a corner to Histon in a tricky situation but then made a catch from the kick as it came over, and Olly Savage hooked away another dangerous ball as the lights came on at 3.20pm.

Fell won a free kick on the corner of the Histon area but Roberts could not get a clear touch on the ball from Martyn Magee and the chance went. Reed chased a long ball and controlled it well but was not quick enough to get round the alert visiting keeper, and more indecisive work in the box foiled two further home attacks as Yarmouth enjoyed a more-sustained period of possession.

However, it was indecision at the other end that proved the more disastrous as Simon Unwin took advantage of space in the Yarmouth box to fire the visitors into the lead after 29 minutes.

Vide created a wonderful opening for Reed after 32 minutes with a cutback into the area but lack of match practice may have contributed to the youngster’s inability to get any kind of touch on the ball.

Two minutes later, Reed had another chance but his on-target shot was turned round by keeper Paul Harben for a corner; Fell’s kick was headed on by Roberts to Smith who touched it back to Magee but his low ball towards goal was hacked off the line by a defender.

Reed featured again on 37 minutes with a jinking run and pass to Fell whose shot went just over. Just as Yarmouth were getting on top, they were hit by a body blow in first-half added time: Histon broke into the Yarmouth area and a harmless-looking tackle by Savage was deemed by the referee to be worthy of a penalty kick which was converted comfortably by Lewis Taafe.

Manager Tong’s response was to bring on Scott Woodcock for Vide and with Duffy not reappearing, Kevin Howes went on to add strength to the front line, with Palmer reverting to his usual centre-back slot in place of Duffy.

Roberts saved the day when, from a mix-up that had presented Taafe with an opening to run on, he opted for conceding the corner in the 49th minute and soon after another piece of suicidal defending left Yarmouth wide open but somehow they kept the ball out of the net.

When Yarmouth got going in attack again, Woodcock showed a lively pair of heels to win a corner and from his place kick Smith’s shot was blocked. Magee was then booked in mysterious circumstances but Woodcock continued to give the home crowd hope, and a great 30-yard shot from him went narrowly wide.

Another good Bloaters’ build-up ended with Smith shooting wide from 20 yards. However, Smith blotted his copybook by getting himself booked (his fifth of the season) in the 74th minute shortly before the final substitution saw Joe Bell replace Fell.

Histon substitute Jack Sessions missed a sitter after 79 minutes as the home defence was cut to shreds and a centre slewed across the goal area without him getting anything on it.

Kevin Howes, having a quiet game, got a pass to Reed who advanced towards the Histon area but was brought down right on the corner; from the kick, Howes tried to find Reed but the header was wayward.

With the final minutes ticking away, Yarmouth kept going and Reed won a late corner which was hacked off the line by Unwin.

Then, with the game deep into added time, a free kick was awarded Yarmouth some way out: Bell strode up and struck a typically magnificent goal for him but it proved too little too late as the referee blew for time seconds after the restart.

Yarmouth Town: M Hilton, J King, O Savage, C Roberts, M Magee, C Duffy, F Vide, D Smith, G Palmer, J Reed, L Fell. Subs: K Howes (for Duffy, 46), S Woodcock (for Vide, 46), R Catchpole, J Bell (for Fell, 75), J Jessup.

Attendance: 32.