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Luke Ingram's strike seals Needham Market a 1-0 victory over National League Maidstone United and a place in the FA Cup first round





Needham Market are into the first round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time in their history after knocking out higher-league Maidstone United 1-0 at Bloomfields.

Luke Ingram's ninth-minute strike was enough to secure an historic victory in this fourth qualifying round tie at Bloomfields, as the Marketmen progressed beyond the fourth qualifying round of the famous cup competition for the first time.

Although both sides struck the crossbar during the first-half, it was a deserved result for Kevin Horlock's men, who were up against a Maidstone side who play two steps higher than them in the Vanarama National League.

Needham Market players celebrate reaching the FA Cup first round Picture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market players celebrate reaching the FA Cup first round Picture: Ben Pooley

The Suffolk side now go into the first-round draw, which will be made live on BBC2 at 7pm on Monday, where they join the likes of Ipswich Town and other sides from Sky Bet League One, and League Two, in the hat.

Needham boss Horlock made three changes for the visit of Maidstone, who won promotion back to non-league's top tier after clinching the National League South title last season.

Dan Morphew and Kyle Hammond both returned, with the former taking the captain's armband from Keiran Morphew, who along with Patrick Brothers sat out through injury, while Thomas Fitzgerald was handed a start, as Seth Chambers dropped to the bench.

Luke Ingram sends his shot past the Maidstone United goalkeeper Picture: Ben Pooley
Luke Ingram sends his shot past the Maidstone United goalkeeper Picture: Ben Pooley

It was a fourth home draw in as many rounds for Step 3 Needham, who had already beaten Leiston (same league), Sheringham (Step 5) and Brightlingsea Regent (also Step 3) to once again be within one victory of the first-round proper.

The Marketmen were making only their second appearance in the FA Cup's final qualifying round, having lost out to a late goal when they faced Cambridge United at Bloomfields back in 2013.

Having waited nine years to have a second crack at jumping over that last hurdle, Needham got off to a fast start when Ingram broke the deadlock after just nine minutes.

Jake Dye's cross found Ingram at the back post and, after contesting in the air for the ball with his marker, it fell in front of him to slot past Yusuf Mersin, in the Maidstone goal.

Needham Market players celebrate Luke Ingram's goal Picture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market players celebrate Luke Ingram's goal Picture: Ben Pooley

The home side had the ball in the net again after 18 minutes through Noah Collard, but his celebrations were quickly cut short for being offside.

At the other end, Maidstone threatened an equaliser on 27 minutes when Regan Booty's free kick struck the crossbar, and follow up efforts from Jack Barham and Joe Ellul were blocked by a stubborn Needham defence.

Two minutes before half-time it was the lower-league side's turn to hit the frame of the goal, as Ross Crane won the ball out wide and cut inside to send a shot which crashed back off of the Maidstone crossbar.

After the break clear-cut chances were few and far between for either side, with Needham coping with the half-time introduction of front man James Alabi for the National League visitors.

Christian Frimpong celebrates with Needham Market fans after beating Maidstone United 1-0 Picture: Ben Pooley
Christian Frimpong celebrates with Needham Market fans after beating Maidstone United 1-0 Picture: Ben Pooley

A quick break for Needham saw Ingram have a low effort parried away by Mersin, while at the other end Marcus Garnham was alert to the danger as Maidstone sent several crosses into the box.

As the game entered the final 15 minutes, the hosts came close to grabbing a second to ease the nerves as Lay reached a long ball forward ahead of Mersin, but his shot at an empty net was closed down by the Maidstone defence.

With only a one-goal lead to their name, stand-in captain Dan Morphew and Dye came to the rescue with some important interceptions, heading clear as the visitors desperately searched for an equaliser.

The Marketmen stood firm and saw out five minutes of added time to complete an historic win and progress into the first-round proper of the FA Cup for the first time.

Needham Market: Garnham, Hammond, Dye, Frimpong, Cullum, D Morphew (c), Lay (Bennett 78'), N Collard (Knights 88'), Ingram (McGrath 72'), Fitzgerald, Crane. Subs not used: Clark, Chambers, Shorten. Booked: Hammond.

Suffolk News man of the match: So many players in red to choose from, but it was between two defenders for me in stand-in captain Dan Morphew and Jake Dye, with the Needham left-back edging it. Looked calm and composed and hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon against National League opposition.