Needham Market write another chapter of club history with FA Trophy success over Yeovil Town
For the avoidance of any confusion Mr Prime Minister, what those associated with Needham Market Football Club will be having tonight is called a party.
Only football can deliver afternoons like this. More than 250 miles away from home against a full-time side from two leagues above – all sensible logic would point towards the Marketmen being soundly beaten.
But this is why we all love the sport because some times it just does not make any sense. They took the game to Yeovil Town, a side currently housed 11th in the National League standings, and were worthy winners of this FA Trophy fourth round tie after an epic penalty shootout.
The game had ended level at one goal apiece after 90 minutes before a total of 16 penalties were struck, with lower-league Needham coming out on top 8-7.
Speaking to Suffolk News pre-match, both manager Kevin Horlock and forward Luke Ingram stressed the gameplan would be to get on the front foot as much as possible and express themselves in possession.
And they were true to their word from the first whistle, with Needham carving out the match's opening chance with seven minutes on the clock. Ingram and Noah Collard linked smartly on halfway to free Ben Fowkes wide on the left, from where he jinked inside and then saw his powerful shot deflected over.
Up the other end Max Hunt's 12th-minute header drifted wide of the far post, while Sonny Blu Lo-Everton stung Needham goalkeeper Marcus Garnham's palms with his shot from a narrow angle in the 27th minute.
However, three minutes later Garnham was powerless to prevent his side from falling behind. Adi Yussuf managed to work himself a little bit of space towards the right byline and he used it well, drilling in a low cross that advancing full-back Morgan Williams swept home with a first-time finish.
It felt like a defining moment in the tie – either Needham were going to let their heads drop and Yeovil took control, or the visitors dug deep and refused to accept their fate.
Thankfully for their travelling band of supporters they opted for the latter and after forcing a couple of corners and free kicks in dangerous areas, it was from a set-piece they deservedly levelled up the scoreline in first-half stoppage time.
Callum Page's left-wing delivery kept relatively low but Yeovil failed to clear their lines and when the ball broke loose time appeared to stand still apart from an alert Fowkes, who pounced to fire in from a tight angle.
That positivity continued into the early exchanges of the second half when Needham skipper Kieran Morphew made a fantastic block to keep out Matt Worthington's driven shot from the edge of the area and then with their first attack after the restart Needham's energetic midfielder Kyle Hammond saw his attempt deflected over for a corner.
Page was next to try his luck for Needham in the 66th minute after being released by substitute Marley Marshall-Miranda, but after showing good footwork to create the space for a shot the Ipswich Town loanee lifted the ball into the terrace behind Grant Smith's goal.
As the half wore on it was Yeovil that started to control proceedings in terms of the possession, yet it was Needham who carved out the next big chance with 14 minutes remaining. Page drifted in a cross from the left that found an unmarked Ingram in and around the penalty spot, only for his header to be a few inches too high.
Still the hosts continued to probe and push, but the Needham defence – spearheaded by the defiant Morphew duo at centre-half and with an excellent midfield shield in front of them – held firm.
And they were so very nearly rewarded in the second minute of stoppage time when Fowkes cut in from the right, saw his shot blocked and break for Ingram six yards out. He smashed goalwards, only for Smith between the posts for Yeovil to somehow keep it out.
Penalties it was and it does not get much more dramatic than what ensued. Yeovil had chances to win it, but on each occasion they were thwarted by a cat-like Garnham and then after he had smashed his team 8-7 in front, the man with the gloves then guessed correctly to keep out Williams' effort.
It sparked wild scenes of celebration and chants of 'Wembley' from the Needham supporters. And do you know what? With 16 just 16 teams reamining in the competition, stranger things have happened in the world of football!
Needham Market: Garnham, Dye, Sayer, Hammond, K Morphew, D Morphew, Page, Collard, Ingram, Clark (Marshall-Miranda 59'), Fowkes
Suffolk News Man of the Match – Kyle Hammond (Needham Market): Covered every inch of the pitch, made numerous tackles and always looked to retain possession. Also a big mention for Garnham for his penalty shootout heroics.