No.37 - Sat 12th March 2016; North West Norfolk League George Graver Cup Q-F;                       2pm at Thornham Playing Field; Main Road; Thornham; Norfolk; PE36 6LX


Matchday images (78)

Thornham (0) 2  Heacham (1) 2

2-3 AET

'Penalties point the way...'

'Itís a lovely sunny day and Iím heading towards one of my favourite football haunts, the north Norfolk coast, for my fix today. The prospect of watching a decent game is on the cards too as the North West Norfolk League George Graver cup competition has reached its quarter-final stage with hosts Thornham Football Club drawn at home against strong rivals Heacham.


Itís an intriguing tie as the game features leaders from the top two divisions who face each other in a contest that will decide who will reach the last four. Not only that but with less than ten miles geographically separating them thereís plenty of  local pride and bragging rights at stake between the clubs. Ask yourself the question: what more could a hopper want?


The tiny village of Thornham, with less than five hundred inhabitants, is found about five miles north east of the much larger and well-known seaside town of Hunstanton and is a much used route for holiday makers travelling to the resorts of Wells and Cromer. Itís a lovely remote setting that affords the visitor beautiful cliff top views of the sprawling sands and sea below.


The place is famed for its All Saints Church, a building started back in Norman times but unfinished with the scourge of the Black Death in 1348. Work on the tower, started in 1633, was also left unfinished when the masons departed to rebuild London after the Great Fire struck in 1666. It was finally completed in 1935 built to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee. The bell from HMS Thornham, a Ham class minesweeper named after the village, now hangs inside the church.


For avid twitchers the famous RSPB Bird Reserve at Titchwell is just two miles to the east and is also a popular venue with walkers, photographers, artists, golfers, cyclists and all who love the peace and tranquillity in this part of Norfolk.


The ground is easily found and comes clearly into view on the left hand side of the main A149 before reaching the village. Sharing its facilities with the local community itís a truly magnificent sight (and site) acting as a social hub for surrounding villages for present and future generations. It also has its own website (see below for details). The impressive adjacent Thornham Deli is well patronised by many people attracted by its wide range of country crafts and tasty treats.


Set in open and hilly countryside it nevertheless has an enclosed feel about it with a neat fence and number of landscaped bushes and shrubs surrounding its perimeter. The six acre Thornham playing field provides a hive of activity catering for football, cricket, tennis, basketball and a childrenís play area.


Pride of place goes to the superb village hall and sports pavilion opened in January 2014 by HM the Queen. After a number of years the dream became a reality with funding support from Big Lottery Fund, Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Rural Community Council and Kingís Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council. Fashioned from wood and local stone it incorporates multi-function rooms available for hire throughout the year with changing facilities at one end of the building. A delightful but seemingly oversized ornate clock sits proudly on the gable and can easily be read from all points of the field. There are a number of wooden picnic benches offering spectator seating on the patio underneath. Players climb some concrete steps cut into a grassy bank to reach the pitch.


The rest of the field is devoted to cricketing paraphernalia: to the right in the corner sits a smaller old wooden building with curtains at the windows and mini veranda (possibly a former pavilion) with some grass cutting equipment fenced off for safety close by. Further along and behind the centrally marked cricket square is a set of cricket practise nets and some site screens waiting to be used when the season gets under way in just a few weeks time.

True to form todayís game turned out to be a thrilling and spirited contest. It was the hosts Thornham (leaders of Division Two) who fought back twice to equalise with their second coming in the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the game. Heacham (leaders of Division One) had taken the lead only eight minutes earlier and  looked to have done enough to win the tie. Indeed with ninety minutes gone on the clock I had already made my way back to the car and thrown my coat onto the back seat when young referee Marcus Ward pointed to the spot (incredibly for the third time in the game!) following some pushing in the area. It was up to Matt Blake who was charged with taking the spot kick to give his side another chance of getting back in the game. With nerves of steel he calmly stepped up and slotted the ball home to take the game into extra time. The match was finally settled just ten minutes later when Steven Reed lobbed the keeper from twelve yards with a spectacular bicycle kick to send the Heacham faithful home happy.


It was bad luck on Thornham who had contributed to a superb match Ė no doubt they will be looking forward to a possible rematch when the club gets promoted at the end of the season. Hoppers may be interested to learn that Heacham FC has successfully applied to join the Anglian Combination League for the start of 2016-17 having already passed the necessary ground grading criteria (it is without a doubt one the best venues in the entire NWNL).


The game played in a mixture of overcast and sunny conditions on a well grassed but bumpy surface was attended by about twenty spectators. Neither a programme (no clubs issue in the league) nor refreshments were made available. I was grateful to helpful secretary Sharon Frary who confirmed the match details before setting out at midday. She explained that the club like many these days share its news on social media (see link below). Hoppers can also find out further information from the excellent league website which incorporates the generic Full-Time providing fixtures results and tables within its pages.


After adding another new tick to my records, travelling to a beautiful location and watching a cracking game this had definitely been one of my most enjoyable trips so far this season. Maybe Iíve said that before!? Ah, the joys of magical days like this continue, have fun wherever you go!


FGIF Match Stats

Scorers: (H) Darlow (72), Blake (pen 90+2) and (A) Moore (pen 29), Reeve (pen 84, 103)   

Attendance: 21; Admission: Free; Programme: None; Match rating: 4/5; Ground rating: 4/5.



edited on 13/03/16