Barsham's promotion joy

BARSHAM won promotion to Division One of the Lowestoft and District League with a last-gasp penalty to draw with title winners Hearts of Oak Reserves in their last league game of the season.

BARSHAM won promotion to Division One of the Lowestoft and District League with a last-gasp penalty to draw with title winners Hearts of Oak Reserves in their last league game of the season.

Barsham went into the game knowing they had to get at least a point to move ahead of Caxton Reserves and win promotion.

A large crowd turned out at Beef Meadow to watch the thrilling encounter helped by the glorious sunshine, including a contingent of Caxton players cheering on the visitors. But it was Barsham who celebrated at the end of the day in true “Roy of the Rovers” style after trailing 2-0 with only five minutes left to play.

First they pulled a goal back through Nick Wilson and then they scored the equalising goal from the penalty spot with ice-cool penalty taker Nick Holmes sending the visitors' keeper the wrong way with his last minute spot kick. The whole of the Barsham side were up for the challenge starting well making advances towards the visitors' goal led by captain Tim Roberts. Central defender Stuart Goodwyn played the entire game with his cracked ribs bandaged up alongside Paul Clark who again put in a solid performance.

Barsham keeper Alan Anderson was again in top form, keeping the Hearts attack at bay. He was very unlucky 20 minutes into the game though. With an opponent closing in on a 50/50 ball on the edge of the penalty area, he dived to collect the ball and the attacker fell to the ground with a penalty being awarded.

The spot kick was placed into the net and Barsham found them selves trailing 1-0 against the run of play.

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Straight away Barsham continued the onslaught towards the visitors' goal, Paul Turner did everything correct to go round two defenders before unleashing a fierce drive that looked directly in the roof of the net until the keeper just managed to touch it onto the cross bar. Terry Brooks then struck a post before Stuart King fired a shot that the keeper saved well.

The openings created just could not be converted into a goal.

So, trailing 1-0 at half-time manager Mark Blades replaced Paul Turner with Alex Holmes in midfield hoping he could upset the visitors' defence with his swift light footwork. More chances were created by Barsham but again the Hearts keeper was in superb form. At the other end a blip in the Barsham defence allowed a backward header to be intercepted by a Hearts forward to loop over the Barsham keeper's head for a 2-0 Hearts lead.

Barsham now had a mountain to climb, but to their full credit they refused to lie down and continued to create chances, twice having the ball cleared off the line and again striking the woodwork. Jay Pollard replaced Chris Wilson who had another good game. Matters could easily have been made worse when Nick Holmes sustained a leg injury 15 minutes for the end, but he refused to give in and after having treatment he continued to play until the end, especially when he realised manager Mark Blades was the next substitute to come on.

Stuart King had an excellent game in attack causing disruptions in the visitors defence with his strong runs. On one such occasion a Hearts defender saw red and got sent off which created an opening for Barsham. Alex Holmes received the ball on the left and threaded it through to Nick Wilson who was able to go round defenders before slotting the ball home past the helpless keeper.

With less than two minutes to play before the end, Stuart Goodwyn picked up the ball on the halfway line before lining up a long shot at goal that cannoned off the Hearts crossbar.

In the resulting goalmouth scramble Nick Wilson was brought down by a Hearts defender and a penalty kick awarded. With regular penalty taker Chris Wilson having been substituted, Nick Holmes took full responsibility to place the ball on the spot and guarantee Barsham promotion by firing it into the net. With less than 30 seconds left to play Barsham knew they had done enough and the Caxton supporters who had previously been somewhat vocal celebrating their premature promotion were silenced.

A truly magnificent performance by each and every player and full credit to manager Mark Blades and his assistant Phil Reeder.

The celebratory champagne and alcohol flowed freely in the sunshine and continued at the Butchers Arms well into the evening, with smiles all round.

This evening Barsham play their Bungay Charity Cup semi-final at Bungay FC's Maltings Meadow (kick-off 6.15pm), meet Butchers at 5.15pm.