Norwich City Under-18s were beaten 4-3 by Dereham Town on Tuesday night, in a friendly match at Aldiss Park.
On a freezing night in Dereham, the game heated up quickly, with Dereham finding the back of the net twice in twenty minutes. The first of the two being a bundle of players taking a swing at the ball from a corner, the second being a lovely finish by Jamie Forshaw, as a result of a ball over the top of the Canaries defence.
The young Canaries weren’t going to take it lying down. A sublime series of passes crawling up the pitch and a through ball beating an offside trap saw Connor Parsons one-on-one with the ‘keeper, with Parsons sure to see his name on that scoresheet in the 24th minute.
Despite the perfect play, City lost their consistency, albeit for minutes. What felt like Déjà vu, another corner ball from Dereham saw yet another bundle of players swarm the ball, with different boots coming in at all angles trying to get that decisive touch. Unfortunately for the Canaries, it was the Dereham shirt of Dion Frary that got the touch, resulting in yet another goal in the home side's favour to finish off the first-half.
Coming out for the second-half, City were looking to use every minute to their advantage. Chances came early, with Fitzpatrick putting the burners on and leaving the Dereham defence in the dust. The moment felt certain to result in an early goal, but the shot was spilled wide, against all odds.
Just minutes later a wonderful ball over the top found Pitcher, who took a few touches before trying to chip the ‘keeper, just finding the shotstopper’s gloves and keeping Dereham’s advantage by two.
Although they dominated the first twenty minutes of the second-half, the Canaries slipped, giving away a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the box. Dereham Town’s Ryan Hawkins stepped up, curling the ball round the wall and beating Blair in goal, taking the toll to four for the home side.
Where most teams would yield defeat, the one thing City can’t have taken away from them is their drive. Just two minutes after conceding and in the 69th minute, Will Hondermarck fancied his chances. The midfielder took a few touches before blasting the ball from around 25 yards out, the ‘keeper took a dive but had no chance of getting his glove to it, as the shot flew top bins.
If City were to take one thing from this game, without question it would be their drive. Two goals down with just ten minutes to go, City were attacking it like their lives depended on it. Deservingly, this effort paid off. A blazing run down the wing by Ruben Shakpoke ended in a cross, finding Aiden Fitzpatrick who buried the ball into the side netting, leaving the Canaries just one goal down from a level score once again.
This got the young Canaries fire raging. Just three minutes remained, and the possibility of a late equaliser was on every spectator’s mind. Dereham had no choice but to park the bus, stacking as many black and white shirts in the back as they could. With City knocking on their door, the back-line panicked, fouling Fitzpatrick on the edge of the box.
What was surely the last kick of the game, now became the most important of this friendly. Reece McAlear stood over the ball, the whistle went, and he took his shot. It felt meant to be, but the keeper managed to react with cat-like reflexes and barely tip the ball wide of the post. A heart-breaking moment for City, as the draw felt more than deserved in this match, but incredible spirit shown and invaluable experience gained is nothing shy of a win for the side.
Norwich: Blair (c), Jackson, Ahmadi (Alidor-Hamilton), Richardson, Warner, Hondermarck, Fitzpatrick, McAlear, Pitcher (Shipley), Parsons (Shakpoke), Kamara
Subs not used: Rose, Duffy
Goals: Parsons, Hondermarck, Fitzpatrick
Bookings: Fitzpatrick, Pitcher, Hondermarck
Dereham Town: Pride, Frary, Dickerson, Murphy (Hilton), Snapkallskai, Castellan, Logan, Smith, Crisp, Forshaw, Hawkins (Hilliard)
Subs not used: Matthews, Linford, Wones
Goals: Unknown, Forshaw, Frary, Hawkins
Kick off time: 7:30pm
Venue: Aldiss Park