Needham Market gain two goal lead from first leg of Suffolk Premier Cup final with Lowesoft Town
Needham Market will take a two-goal advantage into next week's second leg of the coronavirus-delayed Turners Hyundai Suffolk Premier Cup following a 3-1 victory over Lowestoft Town at Bloomfields.
Goals at either end of the first half, a fine curling ninth minute effort from Joe Marsden and stoppage time converted cross from captain Gareth Heath, put them in firm control at the interval.
Adam Tann turned in Louis MacIntosh's free kick just after the hour mark to half the deficit and then header against the crossbar before Billy Hunt rifled in a third in the 69th minute.
It was a repeat of the scoreline Needham had seen off Lowestoft by in their Pitching In Southern League Premier Central encounter at the same venue just 10 days previously. And it ensured a two-goal cushion for Kevin Horlock's side ahead of the return leg on the Suffolk coast next Tuesday, with no away goals rule and straight to penalties in the event of a drawn aggregate score.
Horlock made four changes to the side who picked up a 1-1 draw at Banbury United on Saturday with the substitutes who combined for the late goal, Joe Marsden and Luke Ingram, rewarded with a place in the starting XI alongside Adam Mills and Kieran Morphew. Byron Lawrence was cup tied while Josh Pollard, Callum Sturgess and Ben Fowkes dropped to the bench.
Lowestoft, who also struck back for a 1-1 at the weekend, at King's Langley, included Ipswich Town youngsters Levi Andoh and Collin Oppong, who bizarrely both played in this year's competition against Walsham-le-Willows for their parent club on Wednesday.
The Bloomfields pitch looked to have come through the afternoon's rain without any problems and looked in splendid condition as Needham attacked The Les Ward Stand from the kick off.
There was drama in front of their own goal though with barely more than a minute gone when Adam Tann met Louis MacIntosh's cross with a firm header and with Marcus Garnham beaten Luke Ingram was on hand to hook it clear.
Needham recovered from that shaky start and began passing the ball about well and with purpose.
In the ninth minute the home side was celebrating taking an early lead. The ball was worked out wide on the left to Marsden and the number 11 checked back inside and sent a curling effort from the left-hand side of the area flying into the top corner.
Page soon flashed a ball across the area for the hosts while The Trawlerboys had a decent chance to get back on terms in the 14th minute but Andrew Fisk fired well over from the edge of the area.
Lowestoft's Tann did well to block a Page effort with a sliding challenge in the penalty box while back up the other end a thunderous strike from Connor Parsons would have tested Garnham if it had been either side of him.
Although Needham were controlling possession better chances continued to come at both ends with Marsden firing over a well positioned free kick well over the bar for Needham while Oppong got behind the defence for the visitors but put his shot wide of the near post.
Ingram looked to have got in on goal for Needham only for the experienced Tann to make a well timed sliding challenge to take the ball away from him.
There was a hairy moment for his centre-back partner Andoh in the 42nd minute as he slid Jake Dye's low cross over his own crossbar, with the ball landing on the top of the netting.
Needham doubled their advantage in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the half. Page played a neat one-two with Hunt to take himself into the box before providing a low cross from which the onrushing Heath steered into the net.
Lowestoft made an injury enforced change at the start of the second half with Josh Wells coming on for right-back Josh Curry.
Ingram soon had a penalty appeal turned down after going over under the attention of Migel Lopez chasing down Dye's threaded pass.
The 54th minute saw The Trawlerboys pass up a good chance to pull a goal back when Andoh was found all alone for a header from McIntosh's free kick but he got the direction horribly wrong as it went out towards the touchline.
There were calls for a Lowestoft penalty just before the hour mark when Fish went down with the referee again unmoved before Hunt tried to chip the visiting keeper Luis Tibbles from out on the wing, sending his effort over the crossbar.
Jamie Godbold's side got on the scoresheet in the 62nd minute when another excellent McIntosh delivery from a free kick saw Tann get across his man well to stick a foot out and divert the path of the ball into the far right-hand corner, out of Garnham's reach.
Within three minutes the same player was only denied an equaliser when his far post header, after McIntosh's free kick was flicked on by Andoh, struck the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.
It was Needham who got the all important next goal though with the impressive Noah Collard finding Hunt just inside the area before the number 9 rifled the ball powerfully into the top right-hand corner.
The same player provided the same venom on another shot soon after with Luis Tibbles getting hold of it at the second attempt.
Desperate to pull another goal back, Lowestoft never troubled Garnham's goal from there on in with Owen Murphy's low curling effort in the 75th minute going well wide.
Up the other end they were fortunate to not see Andoh sent off for pulling back Hunt as the last man, with the referee and his assistant apparently not spotting what the crowd did.
Needham ended on the front foot with substitute Fowkes drawing a routine save from Tibbles as the first leg drew to a conclusion.
Needham: Garnham, Dye, Mills (Sturgess 73'), Collard, K Morphew, D Morphew, Ingram (Fowkes 63'), Heath (c), Hunt, Page, Marsden (Pollard 63'). Unused subs: Fitzgerald, Elsdon (GK).
Lowestoft: Tibbles, Curry, Murphy, Lopez, Andoh, Tann (c), Higgs, Fisk, Oppong, MacIntosh, Parsons. Unused subs: Jarvis, Burwood, Wells, Zielonka.
Referee: George Byrne
Suffolk News Man of the Match: Noah Collard. It was a big night for the teenager but he was neat and tidy in possession and set up the third goal.
* See Friday's Bury Free Press print edition for full reaction