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Needham Market lift Pitching In Southern League Premier Central trophy at Bloomfields despite loss to Mickleover





After Needham Market’s 3-1 victory against Royston Town, just two weeks ago, Bloomfields celebrated promotion. There was a spontaneous pitch invasion, teary eyes, and overjoyed Marketmen revelling over the fact that they had just become only the second Suffolk side to escape the clutches of Step 3, and climb into Step 2 of the football pyramid.

While they were wild, jubilant and historic scenes – that no-one in red will ever forget – today Bloomfields celebrated the achievement of winning the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central title. Kevin Horlock’s dominant force had steamrolled their way to an unassailable lead at the summit, with three matches of the campaign remaining, and time had settled for Needham to take in what they had accomplished this season.

Post-Royston was manic, today was a celebration of quality.

A trophy lift was what the fans inside Bloomields came to see, the second piece of silverware captain Keiran Morphew and Needham had claimed in a week after they won their fourth straight Endeavour Automotive Suffolk Premier Cup against Felixstowe & Walton United on Tuesday.

But before more celebrations could commence, a match against third-placed Mickleover was in order – a fixture for most of the season that looked like it would decide who clinched automatic promotion and the title. The fact this game had nothing riding on it is testament to how consistently brilliant Horlock’s outfit have been.

While the trophy lift will live long in the memory, the on-the-pitch action will be quickly forgotten. Needham fell to a 2-0 defeat, with Mickleover’s goals coming in either half. Ben Sault gave the visitors the lead early on – a cultured finish over Marcus Garnham who was stranded as he came to close the attacker down.

Needham Market trophy celebrations. Picture: Mark Westley
Needham Market trophy celebrations. Picture: Mark Westley

Despite the early blow, Needham created a hatful of chances and on another day should have levelled proceedings, but a penalty from Oliver Greaves with 20 minutes remaining wrapped up the contest.

Horlock showed one change from their cup success in midweek, as Adam Mills returned to the starting line-up in place of Seth Chambers, who dropped to the bench.

The visitors arrived with a 12-point deduction looming over their heads, for fielding an ineligible player. They have appealed the decision, but should the punishment go through, they will drop just outside the top-five places. They knew a win was needed at Bloomfields to keep any hopes of finishing in the play-off spots alive.

With something still to play for this season, Mickleover started the better of the two sides and took the lead as they looked to spoil the champions’ day.

Needham Market trophy celebrations. Picture: Mark Westley
Needham Market trophy celebrations. Picture: Mark Westley

Sault latched onto a ball over the top in plenty of space, and forced Garnham to commit himself in no-man’s land, before he calmly curled his effort over the top of the Needham goalkeeper.

The Marketmen slipped to their first home league defeat all season in their last match at Bloomfields, when Stamford ran out 3-0 winners just three days after the promotion celebrations. Thankfully, Horlock’s side were suffering a dip in their domestic form after wrapping up the title.

It took Needham half an hour to create their first clear-cut chance against Mickleover. Kyle Hammond’s right-wing cross was met by the head of Mills, and the forward glanced his effort towards the far corner, but Yusuf Mersin reacted well to tip the ball away.

Keiran Morphew is handed Suffolk Premier Cup trophy Picture: Mark Westley
Keiran Morphew is handed Suffolk Premier Cup trophy Picture: Mark Westley

Soon after, Mills again had a chance to draw the hosts level. The ball fell kindly to him after a melee in the penalty area but he leaned back and fired his volley over the bar – and over the stand.

The Marketmen started the stronger of the two sides after the break. Skipper Morphew rose highest from a Tevan Allen corner, but he directed his header over the bar. Allen then put in another well-taken corner, this time Luke Ingram met the delivery, but he also could not find the target as his header whistled past the near post.

Upping the ante, the hosts came close to an equaliser once more. Dylan Williams, who is partial to a stunning goal, almost gave Bloomfields lift off with a sweet volley that he just fired over the right stanchion from the corner of the box.

Needham Market trophy celebrations. Picture: Mark Westley
Needham Market trophy celebrations. Picture: Mark Westley

It was an unusually quiet afternoon for Jamie McGrath, who was the hat-trick hero two weeks ago. There were a couple of times it looked like Needham had slipped the striker through on goal, but on both occasions the ball was slightly over hit into his path.

And for all of the Marketmen’s efforts in the second half, Mickleover doubled their advantage from the penalty spot with 20 minutes left to play. Morphew was adjudged to have fouled the visitors’ winger and Greaves made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Garnham the wrong way as he slotted the ball into the bottom-right corner.

Needham kept pushing. Substitute Seth Chambers was found with time and space in the right corner of the six-yard box, but he fired his low effort straight at Mersin from a tight angle.

Seth Chambers fires an effort towards goal. Picture: Mark Westley
Seth Chambers fires an effort towards goal. Picture: Mark Westley

Needham Market: Garnham, Smith, Hammond, K. Morphew (cpt), D. Morphew, Ingram, Williams (Lawrence 85’) , Mills (Harris 60’), Lay (Chambers 60’), Allen, McGrath.

Unused substitutes: Fraser, Cullum.

Mickleover: Mersin, Bennett, Wilson, Bradley, Tamen, Mann, Sault, Atkinson (Dales 70’), Waite (Beavon 77’), Trueman, Greaves.

Unused substitutes: Fitzhugh, Rowley, Dolan.

Attendance: 606