Delightful Needham produce a near-perfect performance to defeat high-riding Stratford
Needham Market 2 Stratford Town 1
Needham Market gave a near-perfect performance at Bloomfields to defeat a Stratford Town side who had been unbeaten in their previous 13 league and cup matches heading into this clash, writes John Campany.
The Warwickshire side nevertheless played equally attractive football in what proved a thoroughly entertaining game in front of almost 300 appreciative spectators.
Two finely-struck goals ensured The Marketmen held a half-time lead, but supporters had to endure a frantic final 15 minutes that saw the visitors pull a goal back with Richard Wilkins side hanging on.
The sponsors rightly awarded their man of the match to the tireless Adam Mills, but frankly there were also other individual performances that culminated in what was essentially, a team display of the highest calibre.
The visitors looked very comfortable on the ball and home keeper Jake Jessup had to make a smart save when he was forced full length to deny Albi Skendi.
Jessup was again tested by an effort from James Fry, but Needham were playing delightful football and took the lead on 22 minutes following a neat build up culminating with Gareth Heath picking his spot to drill beyond Richard Walton.
A powerful shot from Kynan Isaac was tipped over by Jessup and then the ‘keeper showed superb handling following the ensuing corner under considerable pressure.
The quality of the home side’s football was further rewarded, when Mills, again rampaging down the left flank, released Callum Sturgess who drove low with Walton’s outstretched foot diverting the ball, but only into the path of Luke Ingram who dispatched a terrific half volley to make it two.
Mills then crossed to impressive target man James Baker, but his header was deflected for a corner.
Wilkins side continued to be both skilful and combative in the second half and Sturgess cutting in fired straight at Walton.
As the football continued to flow, the visitors introduced Shaun Richards, their second new signing of the week, while Baker, who proved very adept to holding the ball up, was replaced by Reece Dobson.
The net result saw Stratford grasp the initiative and pull a goal back in the 85th minute when another fresh signing, Taylor Morrison struck home a free kick to set up an anxious few minutes.
However, the collective defensive work, ably led by Kieran Morphew, saw Needham leap-frog the visitors into 11th place, but only four points off the play-offs.
Referee – Mr Jonathan Burridge.