Tong praises game Bloaters

GREAT YARMOUTH ended their first season back in the Ridgeons Premier Division in 14th place.

They had held on to 13th place for most of the latter weeks of the season but were overtaken by Brantham Athletic on the final Saturday. Last season’s other promoted side, FC Clacton, finished two places lower, writes Gerry Brown.

On the final game at Ely, where the Bloaters lost 3-1, manager Paul Tong said: “First half we didn’t play well partly due to the windy conditions, but second half we were outstanding and we could have scored four goals had it not been for some excellent goalkeeping.

“We were struggling for a squad and down to the bare bones due to unavailability and injuries. Gavin Norman, Gareth Palmer and Eddie Short all could not make it and I had to include the two 16-year-olds.

The Reserves were in with a chance of honours so we couldn’t weaken them. But the boys that went were outstanding, they did the club proud and it’s a testimony to the youth and the club that two 16-year-olds could play at this level.

“Jake Reed got injured after some 20 minutes, twisting his ankle, and in light of his situation it seemed better to safeguard it really.

Stathie Steer, who got on then and young Thomas Clarke, who started for the first time, did themselves proud. Ricky Lutchmaya, the U16 manager can also be proud of what they achieved and I am too.

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“Likewise with keeper Jake Jessup: though he obviously lacked confidence of late and made one or two errors, what you have to remember is that we are throwing a 17-year-old boy, through circumstances, into the lion’s den but he’s done great.

“But they’re all a fantastic bunch of lads and that is shown by the way they played. Due to circumstances it has been difficult to get people to play, but those that have I can only praise; and personally I’d like to thanks those that have stuck with us.”

Ely City 3, Great Yarmouth Town 1

Jake Reed’s last match for Yarmouth before his expected signing for Dagenham and Redbridge this week ended prematurely and disappointingly with a twisted ankle after 22 minutes.

Stathie Steer, 16, took his place and, though the youngster did well, Yarmouth were left without their main outlet and source of goals this season.

Ely scored twice between the 28th and 31st minutes against a Bloaters side which included a youthful Thomas Clark making his full debut in the centre of defence.

On the baked pitch, bounces and bobbles bothered the players. As the interval approached, Steer took an excellent pass from captain Dominic Smith but a defender made an equally excellent tackle, and right on the half-time whistle the youngster got in a glancing header which was hacked away for a throw.

The signs of Yarmouth’s improvement continued after the break and a chance came Luke Fell’s way on 46 minutes. From his shot a defender looped the ball up in an attempted clearance only for it to fall kindly for his keeper.

Steer showed great perception to run onto a Ross Catchpole pass down the left and won a corner. A second corner quickly followed and Bell’s kick came back off the far post and bounced away.

The home keeper was having a good afternoon and did well to hold onto a hard Smith shot after a good combined Yarmouth move.

Two efforts in a minute gave Yarmouth fans hope. Scott Woodcock tried his luck with a long-shot which forced a tumbling save. Seconds later, Pacey made a sharp save from Fell’s snap-shot.

With the clock running down, there was drama in the final minutes as both sides traded penalties.

Jessup brought down Richard Chadwick, Sam Parkinson placing the spot-kick wide of the young Yarmouth stopper after 86 minutes.

Two minutes later Ely substitute Ben Lawrence was sent off for pushing Steer over, the Bloaters’ substitute performing the Reed role to perfection, and Woodcock stuck away his ninth penalty of the season.

Although further chances fell to Woodcock, Fell and Smith, the Bloaters could not add to their score and a season that had started brightly with an away win ended disappointingly with an away defeat.

Team: J Jessup, J Page, J Bell, T Clarke, A Ager, R Catchpole, L Fell, D Smith, J Miller, J Reed, S Woodcock. Sub: S Steer (Reed 22).

Attendance: 82.

The club has been heartened by the news that Jake Reed is wanted by League One side (at the time of writing) Dagenham and Redbridge.

Twenty-goal Reed was seen by Dagenham scouts at Brantham though they had gone to watch the league’s top marksman Ollie Mann and he was asked to attend a triallists’ game.

Reed scored a hat-trick in the in-house game and earned himself discussions with the Dagenham management. He was expected to sign this week.

“It should be a fantastic opportunity for him,” said Yarmouth boss Paul Tong. “Hopefully everything is alright, and it goes through. How he’s played recently and this season, I think he’s carried us, and when he hasn’t played we’ve struggled to score goals.

“Jake will be a difficult act to follow and replace. But he’s fantastic and deserves this chance because he has worked hard, is one of the nicest people you could meet and he hasn’t got a chip on his shoulder. He takes it all in his stride, but the two most important things for me are that he cares and he shows desire.

“His development is testimony to all those that have worked with him; a lot of people have contributed, especially the Yarmouth youth system that brought him to Yarmouth and has developed him from a youngster and without which we would not have had his talents and skills.

“All he wants to do is play football and I believe he will score goals at any level. He’ll be sorely missed but he goes with everybody’s blessing.”

Reed, who has been training to be a plumber, will now have to down tools as he will be moving from his home in Lowestoft to London. “The club will find me accommodation,” he said, “and it is obviously a huge change for me but what a chance too! Fantastic! My family are over the moon!

“I have to thank everyone at Yarmouth that have been so good and helpful to me, especially Ian and Stuart that brought me here in the first place and gave me my chance in the youth team. I won’t forget them.”