SUFFOLK FA Under-18s bring down the curtain on their season with their ‘biggest challenge’ against Norfolk FA.
The old rivals go head-to-head at the FDC at Bowthorpe on the outskirts of Norwich on Tuesday evening in the East Anglian Counties Championship, kick-off 7.45pm.
Norfolk sit top of the table with three wins from three matches and appear on course to win this season’s Len Cordell Trophy.
Suffolk currently occupy second spot in the table, with two wins and two defeats from their four matches, and know a win would possibly see them secure runners-up spot.
Joint Manager Paul Abrahams, who took over running the side with Steve Downey at the start of the season, said: “Unfortunately results in the last week means we can no longer win the title.
“That said, the incentive remains for us to take a big scalp in against current leaders Norfolk, who still carry a 100 per cent record and a win should see us take the runner-up spot.
“Like all competitions, we enter to win and so it is disappointing not to be in contention at this late stage and we look back at points lost earlier in the campaign and many a missed opportunity.
“However, the boys who have been involved this year have been fantastic for me and Steve and a real pleasure to work with and with a little luck along the way, I believe they deserved far more for their efforts.”
“Injuries sustained over the weekend have meant we again lose several key players. This is something we have had to adapt to in recent games and the previous game against Bedfordshire was a real test having so many players unavailable for selection.
“The subsequent win proved to be an even better achievement given that Beds have since gone on to beat Essex and daw with Cambridgeshire. The real highlight though was the introduction of five first-year debutants in our previous fixture as we look towards squad transition in preparation for the 2017-18 campaign.
“As a result Charlie Beckwith, James Carragher and Tommy Robinson are again included and although missing out on this occasion Kehan Whitby and Toby Groom both impressed and will be included in the upcoming friendly versus Colchester over Easter.
“Thanks go to Sam Holland and Callum Griffiths who stepped in to offer a little more experience and help the younger members of the team.”
Abrahams, who was still finalising the squad on Monday evening, said that Suffolk had hoped to be able to call on centre back Will Crisell, but he has been ruled out by injury.
He continued: “Norfolk have been ruthless up to now, winning all three games, scoring 15 and still yet to concede a single goal. This will no doubt be our biggest challenge and so we were pleased to welcome back Will Crisell to the heart of the defence to join Sam Mills, Joe Walker, captain Ryan Yallop and the impressive James Carragher, the latter making his Ryman Premier debut at the weekend.
“However, Will has had to pull out the squad through injury. This is a blow to the team as we look to try and contain a rampant scoring Norfolk side whose striker Connor Ingram is currently top scorer in the Thurlow Nunn Premier with Gorleston.
“On a positive, we are boosted by the return of goalkeeper Alfie Strong who has been outstanding throughout the campaign. Not just in his performances but his attitude has been second to none, even travelling to away games when injured to help prepare his replacement. Charlie Beckwith will share the minutes with Alf against Norfolk, as reward for a very impressive debut against Beds.
“In front of them we welcome back the competitive Taylor Southgate who is now a regular in the Woodbridge Town first team these days. However unfortunately we are again without the Sudbury duo of Joe Wright and Callum Watson, who both picked up knocks over the weekend.
“Joe’s energy is always a big miss as are Callum’s goals and range of passing, but Taylor will rise to his additional responsibilities and we may need look to other senior boys to take on a slightly different role on the night.
“There is also a minor concern to the fitness of one of our flying wingers, with Ryan Gibbs requiring a late fitness test. The good news is Dan Knight will be again terrorising opponents down the left channel.
“We will again be looking to the dependable Adam Blades and Max Willett for goals and against a very strong opposition it may be a night for plenty of unselfish running for the team and scoring opportunities far and few.
“In tight, tough games you need to be clever and bright in your forward play and Tommy Robinson is definitely one we will be looking to unlock this stubborn defence.
“It is important to finish the campaign positively and both myself and Steve are full of confidence and belief in the squad and we expect a performance good enough to test the title favourites.”
Suffolk squad: Alfie Stronge, Taylor Southgate (Woodbridge Town), Sam Mills, Joe Walker (both AFC Sudbury), Ryan Yallop (Bury Town), Dan Knight, James Carragher (Needham Market), Ryan Gibbs (Walsham-le-Willows), Adam Blades, Charlie Beckwith (Leiston), Max Willett (Framlingham Town), Tommy Robinson (Cornard Utd).