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Jamie McGrath hat-trick seals Needham Market promotion to Step 2 after win over Royston Town at Bloomfields





A hat-trick from Jamie McGrath confirmed that Needham Market will play Step 2 football for the first time in the club’s history next season, after they secured the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central title with a 3-1 victory at home to Royston Town.

Automatic promotion was sealed, with three games of the campaign remaining, when second-placed Mickleover, who had to win to keep their push alive, suffered a 3-1 defeat at Stourbridge to spark scenes of jubilation at Bloomfields.

McGrath opened the scoring after 33 minutes with a composed finish past Rylee Mitchell, but the Marketmen should have been further ahead at the break. And their missed chances were punished momentarily, when substitute Kian Harness’ header looped past Marcus Garnham to stun the hosts on the hour mark.

After surviving a wave of Royston attacks, Needham got themselves in front again after Adam Mills, who was a constant threat after coming on midway through the second half, picked out McGrath at the back post who hammered in his second and the all-important goal.

Promotion and the title was wrapped up just three minutes later, when McGrath clipped the ball over Mitchell to claim his hat-trick.

Both crowd and players alike ran onto the pitch at the sound of the full-time whistle and shared a special moment together on the Bloomfields pitch, as ‘We are the champions’ blared out over the speakers.

Jamie McGrath celebrates scoring his hat-trick Picture: Mecha Morton
Jamie McGrath celebrates scoring his hat-trick Picture: Mecha Morton

An emotional Kevin Horlock, who watched on as his players celebrated their incredible achievement, was dragged over to join in the party, before being lifted into the air by his squad. Needham have done it. Needham are promoted, Needham are the champions.

Marketmen boss Horlock named one change to the side that turned over local-rivals AFC Sudbury 3-0 on Monday as Seth Chambers replaced Adam Mills who dropped to the bench.

The hosts started on the front foot and forced Royston goalkeeper Mitchell into an early save. A well-weighted pass from McGrath on the edge of the box slipped Chambers through, but his right-footed strike was fired straight at the on-loan Stevenage man and out for a corner.

From the resulting set piece, Chambers rose highest but could not guide his header on target.

Jamie McGrath scores his second goal Picture: Mecha Morton
Jamie McGrath scores his second goal Picture: Mecha Morton

The visitors, having weathered a few early chances, grew into the contest and enjoyed a spell in Needham’s half, creating a few half-chances without testing Garnham. During a break in play after 20 minutes, assistant manager Tom Rothery called over the Marketmen back-line to tell them to raise the tempo.

And that they did. Another teasing set-piece delivery from Tevan Allen found the head of McGrath who saw his effort spin onto the top of the crossbar. The Needham winger then whipped in a corner which bobbled up for Chambers to attempt a bicycle kick that just fell wide of the post.

The deadlock was then broken moments later, and deservedly so. A ball forward from Kyle Hammond was latched onto by McGrath who, with time and space inside the box, kept his cool and finished low to Mitchell’s right.

Needham Market celebrate their third goal against Royston Town Picture: Mecha Morton
Needham Market celebrate their third goal against Royston Town Picture: Mecha Morton

Buoyed after taking the lead, the hosts then crafted more opportunities and were left wondering how they had failed to double their advantage.

First, Hammond’s volley from the right corner of the penalty area bobbled onto the far post before a neat one-two between Luke Ingram and Chambers set the ball on a plate for the former, who could only prod his effort straight at Mitchell from five yards out.

The Marketmen should have had more than a one-goal lead heading into break.

Luke Ingram battles against Royston Town Picture: Mecha Morton
Luke Ingram battles against Royston Town Picture: Mecha Morton

Needham started the second half as they ended the first, on the front foot, pressing Royston high up the pitch and causing the visitors problems. Jacob Lay weaved in between three Royston players before he toe poked his effort over the bar from inside the box.

The hosts then created a plethora of crossing opportunities from the right-hand side but failed to pick out a man in red in the penalty area.

And Needham were punished for not finishing their chances when Royston stunned the hosts on the hour mark. A right-wing cross picked out substitute Harness who looped his header back across goal and into the far corner. Bloomfields silenced.

The visitors took momentum from the equaliser and almost took the lead, but the flying arm of Garnham to denied James Brighton what would have been a brilliant goal from a free kick.

Needham Market win the league with a win over Royston Town Picture: Mecha Morton
Needham Market win the league with a win over Royston Town Picture: Mecha Morton

The Marketmen thought they had regained their advantage when Ingram tapped home Mills’ deflected cross, but the ball was adjudged to have looped out of play on its way to the boot of Needham’s number seven. Ingram then met another Mills cross, but guided his header wide at the near post.

Eventually, it was Mills’ third delivery from the left that proved to be the golden ticket for Horlock’s side. His high-hanging cross landed on the boot of McGrath at the back post, who fired the ball home, and fired Needham to promotion.

And only three minutes later, McGrath netted his third with a cultured dink over Mitchell. The Needham dugout rushed over to the hat-trick hero to join in the celebrations with the striker and their fans.

Needham Market: Garnham, Smith, Hammond, Morephew (cpt), Morphew, Ingram, Williams, Lay (Mills 68’), Allen, McGrath, Chambers (Lawrence 73’).

Unused substitutes: Fraser, Harris, Cullum

Royston Town: Mitchell, Asafu-Adjaye (Baulk 76’), Brighton, Coldicott-Stevens, Murray, Johnson, Dawodu (Anyadike 20’), Williams, Esan, Georgiou, Mvemba (Harness 46’)

Unused substitutes: Henyr, Virciglio

Suffolk News Man of the Match: Jamie McGrath – hat-trick hero in the game that secured promotion, it could not be anyone else.