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Boxing Day derby hopes to beat weather

PUBLISHED: 11:41 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:00 03 July 2010

Great Yarmouth Town's Wellesley ground will host its largest crowd of this season so far on Boxing Day -weather permitting - when the Bloaters take on the Greens of Gorleston (11am) in the local derby that until recent years always attracted the highest Eastern Counties League gate of the season, writes Gerry Brown.

Great Yarmouth Town's Wellesley ground will host its largest crowd of this season so far on Boxing Day -weather permitting - when the Bloaters take on the Greens of Gorleston (11am) in the local derby that until recent years always attracted the highest Eastern Counties League gate of the season, writes Gerry Brown.

Bloaters' boss Paul Tong is anticipating a tough game, as usual, in this fixture. “Gorleston are showing they mean business,” he said. “New manager Richard Daniels has got the club buzzing. He has acquired some useful new signings and they are looking to push on. They'll be in the mix at the shake-out come May.

“We ourselves are still in the market for new faces. We can't afford to let things slip, and mustn't get complacent - but I don't think the lads will. I wouldn't change my players at this moment in time, but I am looking to add to the squad to strengthen.

“Chairman Steve Brierley wants to take the club forward and shows he means business by supporting this. We are, however, ahead of where we thought we would be at this time, and our aim is to finish in the top three. But people must not get carried away - this is only the halfway stage in the season.”

The east coast derby goes back to 1906-07, and while no attendance figures are available from that time the game was soon being watched by crowds numbered in the thousands with the highest recorded gate in 1926 when the Boxing Day match at the Wellesley saw some 8,000 witness a 3-1 win by Yarmouth.

The big match has not always been held on Boxing Day but the last four-figure gate at the Wellesley for the Christmas holiday meeting was 2,350 some 54 years ago in 1955 though 1,000-plus gates have been seen at other derby games since. In the Sixties there were no league meetings, with Gorleston competing in the Norfolk and Suffolk League/Anglian Combination, but upon the Greens regaining ECL status there was an upsurge of interest and the Wellesley saw a 2,545 gate in August 1969.

Attendances have generally been in decline ever since though, and the best in recent years was the 716 that saw Gorleston win 1-0 at the Wellesley 10 years ago on Boxing Day. That attendance, and three others, are the only ones in the last 25 years to pass 500 at either Yarmouth or Gorleston grounds.

With Yarmouth leading the way in Ridgeons Division One and Gorleston chasing them hard in the top six, hopes are high that Saturday's attendance will be up there with these recent best.

Yarmouth are defending an unbeaten home record this season with only one defeat in their last 19 games anywhere in all competitions, while Gorleston have suffered just one defeat in their last 15 league games. The sides have met once already when Yarmouth won 3-1 in a League Cup tie.

Along with a decent attendance, Yarmouth supporters will be hoping for a change of fortune in Boxing Day results: it is 18 years since the Bloaters last won at the Wellesley in the Christmas holiday fixture!

Admission to the match is £4 adults and £2 concessions (but under-16s only £1).

Yarmouth's tea hut situation has been resolved and it will be open again for the holiday match and subsequent fixtures for all teams.

On Monday, Gorleston are due to entertain Swaffham (7.45) and on Tuesday, Yarmouth visit Thetford (ko 7.45pm).

Yarmouth have announced a new year raffle with football-related prizes on offer, including signed shirts from Manchester United and Chelsea. Tickets are £1 each and can be obtained from Legends Bar and the club office at the Wellesley on match days or at the offices of Hains Watts at 31 Regent Street. The draw is to take place at the FC Clacton home game on Saturday, February 28.

The whole of the Ridgeons League and Anglian Combination fixture lists were wiped out last Saturday by the weather.

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