Get your Wrox off – Wroxham 0 Needham Market 0

Norfolk v Suffolk – the pick, if such a thing can be said to exist, of the Ryman League North fare across the Easter holiday. Good time to watch Wroxham whose life in the division was resurrected after a premature death. 

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They entered a zombie zone after finishing 22nd and were due for the drop last year – reprieved by the demise of other clubs – and are now challenging for a play-off spot in only their third season at this level.

Alan Partridge was commentating on the game for local radio
Alan Partridge was commentating on the game for Radio Norfolk

Where is it?

A good spot to visit, just 15 minutes on the train outside Norwich in the heart of the Norfolk Broads and one of the best set-ups in a league where some grounds need a lick of paint and one or two terraces are fast turning into nature reserves. Swear I saw a zebra on the terrace at Redbridge.

Wroxham were formed in 1892 and the club’s career highlight was a trip to Wembley for the FA Vase final which they lost 6-1 to Whitley Bay.

Lots of advertising neatly attached to stadium fences. In fact I’ve never seen so many ads anywhere ever, not even when they’re coming at you from a website you accidentally stumble acros or page 57 of the local paper.

It’s called Trafford Park – swap the ‘Park’ for ‘old’ and they might get some puzzled Asian tourists over every now and again.

No Wrox stars in the programme and the eclectic pre-match music featured, impressively, Pete Wylie’s Wah! (Story of the Blues)  which then segued equally impressively but less popularly into doomy classical music – Wagner, Rachmaninov? –  as if the pre-match entertainment might feature a hanging. ‘This is good music, innit?’ said one fan ironically. After this blasting assult, my top Wroxham tip would be: don’t stand next to the public address system speakers as you might develop tinnitis.

Eggs-cellent game?

Not really. Nil-nils are rarely riveting and the last thing you want to see as a neutral. But this one was about as good as they get. It was 0-0 by default – mainly Needham Market’s default as they almost tried too hard to land the winning blow that will help seal the championship and automatic promotion.

Shots were delayed a fraction late and a needless first touch was taken when strikes on goal could have been taken first time and avoided a closing-down defensive block.

 And a little more subtlety and calm around the box might have produced a winner.

Cos it was pretty much all Suffolk and little Norfolk although the Yachtsmen threatened intermittently.

First half was a roughhouse and a half – tasty or what? – which the posh ref – you had to look twice to check David Cameron wasn’t moonlighting – kept a lid on. Just. Several bookings, all deserved. Ex-Colchester player Kem Izzet, visiting captain, seemed to want to enlist as fourth official.

There’s a Johnny Cash tribute night at the clubhouse on April 17 and quite a few players were walking the line between a full 90 minutes and a red card.

 

When the half-time music featured the teams coming out to Kung Fu Fighting, (Carl Douglas, 1974) it seemed like an omen. I feared the worst and would have put money on several sendings-off.

Needham battered away. Indefatigable they were. Maybe, on reflection, a low cross or two could have sparked a lucky ricochet and opened up the defence in which Wroxham centre halves were absolutely superb. Number five, skipper Andy Howell, was outstanding. Best performance I’ve seen this season at this level. 

Not just a magnet for the high balls, he robbed opponents when the ball was on the floor too. Perhaps the Wagner music was his theme tune. He spelled doom for an entire, experienced forward line. 

The referee had a hard time but didn’t get ‘bombed’ too often by angry players who, for this level, managed to keep a pretty cool head on. 

Needham might rue the draw but their rivals for the top slot Harlow lost leaving them three points clear, so it was not necessarily a bad result. With their rugged play today it would have left a bad taste had they won. They are almost in a class of their own in this league. Third time this season I’ve seen them and they’re aggressive and experienced and will be a pretty good adornment to the Premier if they fulfil their potential.

Wroxham stayed fifth in the table – a play-off spot – but if they make the ‘cut’, despite 92 goals this season, they’ll do well to go up.

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