THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE CHALLENGE CUP: Mildenhall Town 2 Norwich United 1
Dan Brown stepped off the bench to score twice as Mildenhall Town won the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup for the first time in their history at the expense of reigning league and cup champions Norwich United this afternoon.
It seemed for a long while that Matthew Daniels’ 23rd minute penalty at Diss Town was going to be enough for the holders to retain their trophy at Brewers Green Lane, but Mildenhall’s leading goalscorer struck in the 81st minute and then again in stoppage time to secure the Suffolk side’s first piece of silverware in five years.
It was a tentative start to proceedings, with neither goalkeeper called into any meaningful action.
Tim Henerey fired well over for Norwich, while Mildenhall winger Kelvin Enaro produced a similar effort moments later.
However, the showpiece encounter eventually burst into life when Norwich centre-forward Mathew Blake — a scorer of 45 goals this season — breached the Mildenhall defence and bore down on goal. He lifted his effort over an advancing Josh Pope, who in turn clattered into the number nine.
Referee Josh Few had little hesitation in pointing to the spot and following a booking for the Mildenhall keeper, up stepped Daniels to do the honours from 12 yards.
There was a second instalment of the Pope-versus-Blake duel in the 43rd minute after Mildenhall full-back Jacob Brown had hesitated in possession. On this occasion, though, Pope stood tall to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Having won the two league meetings between these teams by an aggregate of 5-0, the thinking was that the Premier Division champions would go on to increase their advantage after the restart.
Yet, it seemed that Mildenhall had not read the script, with Dean Greygoose’s men dominating the contest, both in terms of chances created and the possession.
Chris Bacon nodded Gareth Simpson’s corner wide of the target in the 64th minute and then six minutes later left-back Joe Asensi curled a free-kick from 20 yards out just over the crossbar.
Brown joined the action in place of Ben Sawyer soon after and it was he that ensured Mildenhall’s control of the game did not go to waste.
Luke Parkinson forced the ball through to the striker and from the right-hand side of the box, he bent the ball out of Andrew Wilton’s reach with a powerful drive that flew into the top corner.
And, just when it appeared that a penalty shootout was on the agenda, Brown struck in the third minute of added time in what were confusing, but nonetheless dramatic circumstances.
The substitute raced clear after being put through by Bacon, only to then be upended by a combination of Norwich’s centre-back pairing of Josh Carus and Andrew Eastaugh. But, before the match official could award a penalty, Brown somehow stabbed the ball goalwards.
It appeared to be a routine save for Wilton, but the Norwich glovesman inexplicably allowed the ball to squirm underneath his body and cross the line.
The two minutes of injury time that remained passed by without any incident, sparking scenes of jubilation among the Mildenhall players, coaching staff and travelling support.
* See this week’s Bury Free Press and Newmarket Journal print editions for reaction to Mildenhall’s historic day.