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Needham Market hit three past AFC Sudbury to take another step towards promotion from Pitching In Southern League Premier Central

Needham Market strengthened their position at the top of the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central with a 3-0 victory against Suffolk rivals AFC Sudbury at Bloomfields.

The Marketmen’s 25th league victory of the campaign took them another step closer to promotion and 11 points clear at the summit, ahead of Mickleover’s match at home to eighth-placed Coalville Town this afternoon (3pm), where the second-placed outfit could reduce the gap back to eight points with a win.

The bragging rights always looked like they would be in Needham’s hands come the full-time whistle as they broke the deadlock just 13 minutes in, when former Sudbury man Adam Mills, who was the difference between the two sides on New Year’s Day, turned home Tommy Smith’s cross.

Seth Chambers scores Needham Market’s second goal Picture: Ben Pooley
Seth Chambers scores Needham Market’s second goal Picture: Ben Pooley

And then, at the end of an uneventful first period, substitute Seth Chambers was on hand to prod home the second after James Bradbrook could only turn Luke Ingram’s effort onto the crossbar.

The visitors tested goalkeeper Marcus Garnham in the second half, their best chance coming when Ben Hunter struck straight at the Needham shot-stopper from just outside the box.

The Marketmen then wrapped up the three points with the best goal of the afternoon, when Dylan Williams fired a sweet volley from 25 yards out into the bottom-left corner.

Seth Chambers scores Needham Market’s second goal Picture: Ben Pooley
Seth Chambers scores Needham Market’s second goal Picture: Ben Pooley

The defeat against their local rivals leaves Marc Abbot’s visitors four points from safety with four games remaining, but the gap could be increased if Hitchin Town are to pick up a result at already-relegated Berkhamsted this afternoon (3pm).

Needham Market boss Kevin Horlock named an unchanged starting 11 from the side that started their 2-0 win away at Hitchin Town on Good Friday. The only alteration saw goalkeeper Harrison Podd added to the matchday squad.

Marc Abbott made two changes to the AFC Sudbury line-up that started their 4-2 defeat at home to St Ives Town two days ago, as Olumide Oluwatimilehin and former Marketman Joe Neal replaced Joe Tarpey and Charlie Lewis.

Both sides fashioned early chances which saw Tevan Allen’s effort blocked in the box before a mistake from Smith allowed Joe Neal the opportunity to bare down on goal, but his strike was met by the body of Dan Morphew.

Seth Chambers scores Needham Market’s second goal Picture: Ben Pooley
Seth Chambers scores Needham Market’s second goal Picture: Ben Pooley

But it only took 13 minutes for Horlock’s side to break the deadlock. Smith guided a brilliant cross from the left wing into the box that Mills met with a deft flick with his right boot, and the ball found its way into the back of the net despite a hand from Bradbrook in the Sudbury goal.

Moments later, Needham could have doubled their advantage but Ingram, who burst into the penalty area from the right-hand side, ballooned his shot over the bar from close range.

A mistake on the ball from Oluwatimilehin allowed Mills to burst down the left wing midway through the first half, with three red shirts busting a gut to join him in the box, but the goalscorer’s cross was hit straight at a Sudbury defender and the visitors were able to clear the danger.

Then Mills, who went down moments before with an injury, was unable to continue and was replaced by Chambers.

For large parts, the first period lacked quality and became scrappy, but good sides find a way to win, and Needham dug deep to grab a second on the stroke of half-time.

A ball over the top found Ingram in the box, whose strike was deflected onto the bar by Bradbrook, but the rebound fell kindly to Chambers who finished into the empty net.

A first half where Needham were far from their best, but a two-goal lead at the break left their Suffolk rivals with it all to do in the second period.

The Marketmen controlled possession in the opening stages of the second period, but the visitors created the first clear-cut chance eight minutes after the restart.

After he was fouled, Jackson took a quick free-kick that set Hunter on his way however, with options left and right, his strike from just outside the box was beaten away by Garnham.

Former Needham man Callum Page was next to test the host’s shot-stopper as he cut in from the left and unleashed a curling right-footed strike that Garnham was equal to.

After a lull in the game, Williams produced a moment of brilliance to wrap up the points for Horlock’s side. Tevan Allen worked hard down the right to pull the ball back to the midfielder who lurked on the edge of the box. Needham’s number eight took aim and fired a rocket into the bottom-left corner, that crashed the post on its way into the back of the net.

The visitors pushed for a goal to see if they could start a late fightback. Neal struck a venomous effort at Garnham’s near post with 15 minutes remaining but again the Needham goalkeeper stood strong.

Needham Market: Garnham, Smith, Hammond, K. Morphew (cpt), D. Morphew, Ingram, Williams, Mills (Chambers 43’), Lay, Allen (Fraser 77’), McGrath (Lawrence 77’)

Substitutes: Podd, Cullum

AFC Sudbury: Bradbrook, Oluwatimilehin, Dickens, Turner (cpt), Hunter, Neal, Page (Lewis 84’), Allen (Bradley 72’), Pinnington (Tarpey 72), Jackson, Cawley

Substitutes: Oteng, Soyemi-Ololade

Suffolk News Man of the Match: Jacob Lay – was at the heart of most of Needham’s attacks and showed some great trickery and quick feet in tight areas.

Attendance: 656