Ghosts keep their cool from the spot to win through to final
Newmarket 1 Fakenham 1
4-2 on penalties)
From last season’s relegation to booking themselves a place in the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup final – the last few months have been quite the ride for those of a Fakenham Town persuasion.
The Ghosts endured a 2017/18 campaign to forget, winning just seven times and conceding 124 goals on their way to being demoted from the Premier Division.
In contrast, the current term has been packed with highs.
No defeat since Boxing Day and unbeaten away from home since October 6, now they have a cup final to look forward to against either Long Melford or Benfleet in May after beating higher-league Newmarket Town 4-2 on penalties on Tuesday, having drawn 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Boss Andy Cunningham came in midway through the relegation season and while it rankles that his men are not currently higher than fourth in the First Division North, he has nevertheless been pleased with the turnaround in fortunes.
“Given everything that went on last year, from where we were to now is really pleasing,” he said.
“We had to strip everything back to basics – all the cliches you can think of, but it’s true.
“The players we have got together do not know when they are beaten. They work hard for each other and the best thing about them is they are an honest bunch.
“It is a good place to be when you look at what happened last season, but there is still that little niggle that we have probably dropped 10 to 13 points we should not have done.
“But they have given themselves something to look forward to at the end of the season.
“That is a reward not just for them, but for everyone at the club who believed in myself and Scott to turn things around. It is a pat on the back for everyone.”
It took visiting Fakenham just seven minutes to break the deadlock at the Bloorie,com Stadium as Jack Love applied the finishing touch to a well-worked move.
Tom Blake had a good penalty shout turned down later on in the half before Newmarket drew themselves level in the 43rd minute via Sam Gomarsall’s close-range finish.
Though Fakenham still carried a threat after the restart – Blake going closest when his shot was hacked off the line – the visitors had to rely on some smart work from their goalkeeper Tom Coombe to keep the scoreline level.
He denied Lewis Whitehead on two occasions and then also thwarted Gomarsall in the shootout.
Newmarket’s Jacob Partridge was also off target but Connor Charlesworth, Josh Young, Shane Akers and Ricky Claxton all made no mistake for Fakenham.
Fakenham: Coombe, Akers, Skipper, Franks, Field, Tuddenham, Blake, Love (Youngs 80), Charlesworth, Brain, Hurrell (Claxton 75).