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Needham Market up to 12th in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central after 1-0 win against Hednesford Town





Needham Market climbed four places to 12th in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central after beating Hednesford Town 1-0 at Bloomfields tonight.

The Marketmen were back at home after a run of four away games, which had seen Kevin Horlock’s side return with two draws and two defeats to slip from eighth to 16th in the table.

A return to home comforts also marked a return to winning ways for Needham, as Ross Crane’s 70th-minute strike sealed a 1-0 victory against the division’s bottom side.

Ross Crane is mobbed by Jamie McGrath after opening the scoring for Needham Market tonight Picture: Ben Pooley
Ross Crane is mobbed by Jamie McGrath after opening the scoring for Needham Market tonight Picture: Ben Pooley

After ending their road trip with a 0-0 draw at Stourbridge on Saturday, Needham welcomed Hednesford to Bloomfields for the first game of a home double header this week against the current bottom two sides in the Premier Division Central.

Needham boss Horlock made two changes from the weekend as Tom Fitzgerald and Jamie McGrath were both handed starts, while Luke Ingram dropped to the bench and Noah Collard was unavailable.

Hednesford arrived in good spirits after snapping a five match losing run with a 2-0 win at home to Stratford Town last time out, in a game which saw Leroy Lita find the target.

The ex-professional striker, now 38, who played in the Premier League for Reading and Swansea City, led the line for the visitors, but was mostly kept quiet by a Needham defence that clinched a second clean sheet in as many games.

Jamie McGrath tries an overhead kick Picture: Ben Pooley
Jamie McGrath tries an overhead kick Picture: Ben Pooley

The hosts made a bright start to the contest but the opening 45 minutes saw neither goalkeeper seriously tested. A Kyle Hammond cross on 18 minutes found Christian Frimpong in the box, but his header was comfortably saved by Tiernan Brooks.

At the other end, Lita nodded the ball down for Hednesford full back Lewis Ludford-Ison, who saw his half volley go over the target, in a rare sight of goal for the visitors in the first half.

Hammond then tried his luck from long range and his low strike clipped off the post and out of play on 33 minutes, before a scramble in the Hednesford box late in the half saw McGrath stretch out a leg to send the ball across the box, but the visitors were fastest to react, and Brooks gathered possession.

Patrick Brothers runs forward for Needham Market Picture: Ben Pooley
Patrick Brothers runs forward for Needham Market Picture: Ben Pooley

After the break, it was right-back Hammond who threatened again for Needham, with another strike from distance striking the frame of the goal for a second time after 49 minutes.

Jacob Lay drew a save from Brooks following a driving run down the centre of the pitch on 64 minutes as the Marketmen pressed for a goal, and it finally arrived six minutes later.

Crane got hold of the ball on the right wing and saw his shot deflect off of Hednesford defender Luke Redfern, and beyond the reach of Brooks, and into the far corner to put the home side in front.

Needham Market celebrate their goal Picture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market celebrate their goal Picture: Ben Pooley

In a game which up to that point had seen both defences on top for the majority, Crane’s breakthrough already felt like it could be the decisive moment, but a late rally in added time from Hednesford almost left Needham with one point instead of three.

With 94 minutes on the clock, the visitors were laying siege on the Marketmen’s goal with a rare spell of prolonged pressure, and goalkeeper Marcus Garnham pulled off a fine reaction save to tip the ball on to the post, before substitute Ingram cleared the ball short of the line a minute later, to ensure Needham kept hold of all three points.

The win moves Horlock’s men up four places from 16th to 12th in the table ahead of hosting second from bottom AFC Rushden & Diamonds at Bloomfields this Saturday (1pm).

Needham Market: Garnham, Hammond, Dye, Frimpong (Ingram 68’), K Morphew (c), D Morphew, Lay (Chambers 90’), Fitzgerald, McGrath, Brothers, Crane. Sub not used: Knights. Booked: Hammond. Attendance: 125.

Suffolk News man of the match: A tight contest between two sides desperate for three points saw both defences on top for the most part. Needham captain Keiran Morphew put in a strong performance at the heart of the defence, winning countless headers and timely interceptions to keep the Hednesford attack at bay.