Dereham Town dreams still alive and kicking

FA Cup Extra Preliminary RoundDereham Town vs Leiston Aldiss Park

It's 8am, the morning of the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, and it feels like Christmas and my birthday rolled into one.

A year ago a thought entered my usually vacuous mind to attend all 14 rounds of the FA Cup, and finally it was here.

Setting off at 1pm, three men in a clapped out Ford Focus headed up the A47 to Dereham. Myself, Bruce and Fiddy. All with anticipation, apprehension and promise of what the day will bring.

Me with the anticipation of watching grass roots football at its best, Bruce with the apprehension of "will there be beer?" and Fiddy with the "promise of pies."

We got to Dereham’s Aldiss Park at 1:40pm, nice and early to take in the cup atmosphere.

Unfortunately 1:40pm seemed too early for most supporters and we were left banging on the door of the club bar.

After finally getting in and being served by a blonde goddess, we sat in the corner, watching the fans trickle in (mostly from Leiston surprisingly).

Looking out of the window, the view was to rival an executive box at Wembley, right behind the dugouts with both goals in full view.

Instantly the thought was to stay here and watch the match while propping up the bar.

At 3pm the fans spilled out onto the terraces. Well, not quite a terrace, more like a shed with no sides, or doors. Maybe we should just say, spilled out under a roof.

An eerie silence fell upon kick-off, either because of the nerves of the occasion, the wind carrying the noise away through the open-sided stadium, or the fact that there were only 50 spectators.

Dereham took an early lead, which was met by a few cheers as fans were still entering the stadium.

All around the perimeter of the pitch there were Dereham black and white shirts mixed with the blue of Leiston. A friendly banter was emerging, with both sets of supporters agreeing the linesman needed glasses.

Walking around the pitch, the majority of the conversations included "How Norwich are doing in Devon?" and "Who watched the early morning kick-off at Stamford Bridge?"

It seemed people’s thoughts were elsewhere on the day that the Premier League finally kicked off.

Leiston fought back and levelled, but a 25-yard free kick late in the first half by the Magpies (Dereham) sent the home team in at the break 2-1 up.

Half-time and a sprint to the bar! Everyone gathered around the plasma screen in the rather impressive members lounge to check the scores.

“Norwich are p*ssing drawing,” shouts a bloke from the back. Had Norwich been at home, you get the feeling the attendance would have been a lot less.

The 15 minute interval seems just a suggestion at this level, as I’ve only just placed my order at the bar and the game kicks off again.

Thank God for the executive box view!

Leiston came out with an unchanged side and instantly went 3-1 down to a dubious penalty. The fans finally found their voice, probably due to the copious amounts of beer consumed, and started to encourage the team.

No chants of "Que Sera Sera" or "Wembley... Wembley" were sung by the home support, maybe a bit too early in Dereham’s quest for the cup.

The final whistle blew on a very average second half but Dereham and Leiston fans applauded their teams off the park.

Maybe next year for Leiston, but for two weeks at least Dereham can still dream of walking up those Wembley steps after a cup final win against Norwich.

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