Tom Rothery felt Needham Market's Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final tie with Kirkley & Pakefield should have been settled by half-time as they reach final for seventh time
Holders Needham Market will face Leiston in next Thursday’s Turners Hyundai Suffolk Premier Cup Final at Colchester United (7.30pm) following a 3-1 victory over Kirkley & Pakefield in Tuesday’s semi-final at Leiston FC.
The divisional rivals will meet in the showpiece occasion in a repeat of the 2007/08 final in which Needham won 5-4 on penalties following a goalless draw. It will also see Needham return to the scene of their 3-2 success against Lowestoft Town to lift the county trophy in the 2016/17 season.
After Needham dominated the first-half and established a two-goal lead through Seth Chambers and Ben Fowkes, Kirkley clawed their way back into the tie in the second period.
The side who play two divisions lower than Needham and have never reached the final, pulled a goal back on the hour through Kyle Haylock.
It needed a third goal scored by Fowkes in the 90th minute to settle the outcome of the last-four tie.
Needham Market assistant manager Tom Rothery felt his side should have wrapped things up by half-time though.
“In the first half I thought we were by far the better team and in the second half they came out and had a go,” he said.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to them but if we come in at half-time 4-0 that’s not an unfair reflection of the game.”
Rothery felt his side were denied a legitimate goal after just four minutes when Needham’s players believed the ball had crossed the line following Luke Ingram’s header.
However, he admitted they missed other opportunities to kill off the tie – a problem that has plagued the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central side all season – before Fowkes settled the outcome.
“The way we have been this season we probably would have conceded knowing us, so the third goal obviously helps and relaxes us a little bit on the sideline and relaxes us on the pitch,” he said.
Looking ahead to the final against Leiston Rothery said: “They are a good side and they are going to finish higher than us in the league, so we won’t under-estimate them in any way, shape or form.
“They have got the same schedule as us so it is going to be tough – four games in seven days for both teams, so I am sure they will do the same as us and rotate their squad as much as possible.
“Probably like us they haven’t got they haven’t got the biggest squad so it will be tough, but you want to be in finals and it is something to look forward to.”
After Ingram’s header was not given Needham did go ahead after 16 minutes when right winger Chambers slid the ball beneath ‘keeper Alex Blowers after being put clear for the 20-year-old’s first senior goal for the club.
Ingram then failed to hit the target with the goal gaping from Chambers’ pass after another quick break instigated by Noah Collard’s through ball.
The pace of Needham’s attacks was causing Kirkley all sorts of problems and Blowers left his line to block another effort from Chambers.
Kirkley’s Daniel Conroy and Miguel Lopez then both had shots saved by Marcus Garnham in the 29th minute before a fumble by Blowers as he attempted to cut out Ingram’s pass allowed Fowkes to steal in at the back post and slide the ball home off the inside of the opposite post.
Blowers redeemed himself by saving from Fowkes at close range as the striker seemed set to score a third goal in the 39th minute that Needham’s dominance deserved.
Kirkley came more into the match after the interval and reduced the deficit just before the hour when Haylock’s attempted through ball was cut out and came back to him to sweep a waist-high shot just inside Garnham’s right-hand post.
The Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side were growing in confidence and right-back Daniel Munro got forward to let fly with a 30-yard shot that Garnham had to tip over the crossbar.
From the resulting corner, delivered by Haylock from the right, player-manager Jack Herbert got his head to the ball and Garnham beat his effort away.
The Needham number one then saved comfortably from Conroy whose header lacked both the power and direction to really trouble him.
That proved to be Kirkley’s last chance of note, and the outcome was settled in the 90th minute when Collard’s pass sent Fowkes clear and he slotted home to send Needham into their seventh final.
Kirkley & Pakefiled player-manager Herbert said he was proud of his side’s display despite their defeat.
“I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, especially in the second half. We always knew it was going to be a tough ask with they quality they have got and being two leagues above us, but I am extremely proud of the boys and they should be proud of themselves. They have done the club proud as well, so I am over the moon with them,” he said.
Herbert said he told his players at half-time that they had nothing to lose in the second period.
“I just said look boys we have nothing to lose now, it is almost a free hit. We are going to go back to a familiar formation and see how much you fancy it now and how much you want to go out and test yourselves against a team that’s two leagues above.
“We started to throw the kitchen sink at it and towards the end and we were going to move myself up front for any flicks and just take a gamble.
“They hit us on the counter in the last couple of minutes and sealed the game, but it could have been anyone’s.”
Needham Market: Garnham, Clark, Sturgess, K Morphew, D Morphew, Chambers (Exworth 77’), Collard, Ingram, Fowkes, Fitzgerald (Maycock 69’), Sayer.
Kirkley & Pakefield: Blowers, Munro, Meeken, Hutchings (Bell, 90+4'), Herbert, Creamer, Haylock, Lopez, Conroy (Holt 90+4'), Russell (Swan 90+4'), Barber.
Referee: George Laflin