Debenham's finest footballing hour

PUBLISHED: 10:00 01 October 2007 | UPDATED: 10:59 04 March 2010

FORGET the 5-1 scoreline, this was Debenham LC Football Club and the village of Debenham's finest footballing hour.

The magic of the e.on-sponsored FA Cup, on show at Haverhill Rovers last season when they entertained Conference big boys Aldershot, was written all over this tie too, as, like Rovers, fellow Ridgeons League First Division Debenham took on one of non-league's biggest clubs, and a club with one of the largest fan bases in the non-league game.

By Mike Bacon

FORGET the 5-1 scoreline, this was Debenham LC Football Club and the village of Debenham's finest footballing hour.

The magic of the e.on-sponsored FA Cup, on show at Haverhill Rovers last season when they entertained Conference big boys Aldershot, was written all over this tie too, as, like Rovers, fellow Ridgeons League First Division Debenham took on one of non-league's biggest clubs, and a club with one of the largest fan bases in the non-league game.

Having risen from the ashes that were the old Wimbledon FC, AFC Wimbledon and their fans are a proud bunch.

Not so long ago most of them were supporting the Wombles at Anfield, Old Trafford and Highbury. Today they follow their boys in the Ryman League Premier Division and in cup matches to the likes of Maitlands at Debenham - a tidy football arena, but a million miles away from the Premiership.

But then again you see football doesn't have to be all about winning.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, there is a far bigger picture. And that picture was captured in time at Debenham on Saturday.

The sun shone, the burger stalls did a roaring trade and the locals turned out in force, some even bringing their dogs for a stroll over to the Leisure Centre, to see what all the fuss was about, adding to the large gathering of AFC Wimbledon fans who made the journey from south London.

Non-league's biggest-supported club didn't let themselves down, Debenham LC certainly didn't let themselves down, and although the outcome was as predictable as Celtic or Rangers winning the Scottish title, it mattered not one jot.

More physical in the challenge, fitter and with more quality, AFC Wimbledon were always going to come out on top in the end.

But Debenham covered themselves in glory, particularly in the first half when they matched their opponents for endeavour and bravery.

Indeed only an Antony Howard near-post flicked header from a Tony Finn cross with just four minutes to go to the break separated the teams at the interval. It was tough on the home-based Hornets to go behind so close to the break.

However this game was over within six minutes of the second half, by which time Finn had netted twice and the Wombles fans were in great voice behind Debenham keeper Craig Ellis's goal.

Steve Ferguson used his pace to net a fourth before Daniel Webb bulleted home a fifth from a header 10 minutes from the end.

This FA Cup tie was long over, but was there an empty terracing? Were Debenham fans making for the exits? Of course not . . . this, you see is the bigger picture.

And when Stuart Jopling hammered home a last-minute penalty for the Hornets, the crowd roared and yes, oh yes, even the Wombles fans applauded.

Non-league football, grass roots football, call it what you like. Debenham fans will say this was value for money and more.

Mel Aldis and his troops may not win the FA Cup this season. But come next May when that cup is lifted at Wembley, they will have greater memories of their FA Cup run than most.

The line-ups

Debenham LC: Ellis, Turley, Farrell, Barker, French, Norman (sub Porter 74), Warner (sub Abbott 65), Canfer (sub Bibby 65), Jopling, Pratt, Gedny. Unused subs: Sandilands and Holland.

AFC Wimbledon: Little, Garrard, Haswel, Quinn, Goodliffe, Howard, Ferguson, Leberl, Webb (sub Butler 80), Beard (sub Seuke 67), Finn (sub Salmon 73). Unused subs: Hatton and Kneissi.

Referee: S Ross (Boston).

Attendance: 1,026 (ground record - previous best 189 v Felixstowe & Walton United, August 2007)

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