Sending off costs Nick cup final chance

A MOMENT of madness has cost a Suffolk footballer the chance to appear in a national cup final at Portman Road.Nick Middlebrook said he was “bitterly disappointed” after learning he will miss Suffolk's FA County Youth Cup final against Cambridgeshire.

Nick Garnham

A MOMENT of madness has cost a Suffolk footballer the chance to appear in a national cup final at Portman Road.

Nick Middlebrook said he was “bitterly disappointed” after learning he will miss Suffolk's FA County Youth Cup final against Cambridgeshire.

Middlebrook was sent off for using foul and abusive language 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute for Suffolk Under-18s in their 5-2 victory over Hertfordshire in the East Anglian Counties Championship at Letchworth on March 13.

The 18-year-old striker, who lives at Raydon, near Hadleigh, has been handed a two-match ban, which means he will miss not only Suffolk's final championship match but also the prestigious final on Saturday, April 19.

Martin Head, secretary of Suffolk FA, confirmed that Middlebrook's ban would come into effect 21 days from the date of the offence, and would only apply to county matches and not club games.

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Middlebrook, who vented his frustration at the referee after he felt he was fouled, admitted it was a moment of madness and said: “It was a stupid thing to do, and I am now getting punished for it.

“I am bitterly disappointed, although I was half expecting it,” said the former Suffolk Under-16 Player of the Year who used to regularly attend Portman Road as a youngster and whose mum, sister and grandparents are all Ipswich Town season-ticket holders.

Andy Gould, the Suffolk manager, broke the news to Middlebrook, who plays his club football for Team Bury in the Premier Division of the Kent Blaxill Border League, where Gould is joint manager.

Gould said: “I have known him since he was 14 and what he said was completely out of character for someone who comes from a lovely family.

“He is an honest footballer and it is extremely disappointing for him, but he took it really well and recognised he is paying the ultimate punishment for what he did.”

Middlebrook has been named by Gould and his assistant Alan Johnson in Suffolk's 17-strong squad for the final, even though he is ineligible.

Gould said: “He will be involved unofficially on the day of the final, even if it is only so that he can be with the team as they prepare for the game.”

Suffolk play their final East Anglian Counties Championship match against Bedfordshire at Bury Town FC next Thursday, April 10, kick-off 7.45pm.

Suffolk require one point to be certain of retaining the title, although they could still win it on goal difference if they lose. Suffolk hold a goal difference of +6 over second-placed Cambridgeshire, who entertain Norfolk in their final game.

Suffolk squad for both games: Luke Bailey (Bury Town), Joe Bloomfield (Felixstowe & Walton Utd), Camillo Douglas (Whitton Utd), Richard Gammon (Newmarket Town), Ben Garnham (Woodbridge Town), Chris Henderson (Kirkley & Pakefield), David Lorimer (Bildeston Rangers), Scott Manning (Kirkley & Pakefield), Stefan Marsh (Woodbridge Town), Nick Middlebrook (Bury Town), Luke Read, Tom Ross (both Woodbridge Town), John Sargent (Bury Town), Ben Seaman (Woodbridge Town), Dale Smith (Lowestoft Town), Chris Stacey (Bury Town), James Ward (Stowmarket Town).

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