RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: Needham Market 1 Great Wakering Rovers 0: Luke Ingram is hoping he has cemented his role as a corner kick taker for Needham after his late goal got them off to a winning start on Saturday.
The dominant hosts passed up a glut of chances and could not find a way past impressive visitor’s goalkeeper Adam Seal, until Ingram’s wind-assisted dangerous flag kick curled into the top corner in the 82nd minute.
And the 21-year-old ex-Bury Town player, who shone filling in at right-back, with Ollie Fenn failing a fitness test, revealed it had been hard to get a look-in at the set pieces.
“It is rare that he (manager Mark Morseley) lets me take corners but this year he has let me have a go and hopefully I will stay on,” he said.
“You just have to put it in an area and hope someone gets a head on it, but once the ‘keeper hasn’t come you can’t really stop it and it has gone in the far corner. It is just one of those lucky things.
“We got the three points and that is all you can ask for.”
Experienced midfielder Luke Hammond, who had been on loan with Needham from Leiston last season, was included on the bench after signing from divisional rivals Brightlingsea Regent on Thursday, and was joined by former Needham academy striker George Clarke, who signed after being released by Ipswich Town’s academy.
Against newly-promoted Great Wakering Rovers, the Marketmen were immediately on the front foot with skipper Kem Izzet seeing his drive parried, Ryan Crisp snatching at the ball when well placed and Ian Westlake putting past the post, all inside the opening 10 minutes.
Sam Newson, part of a three-pronged attack with Crisp and new signing Danny Cunningham, headed over while Cunningham was only denied a debut goal soon after when Seal arched back to turn his header over the bar.
Home centre-half Chris Hogg had the ball in the net after 21 minutes, only to see his header ruled out for climbing on his marker.
Great Wakering were looking dangerous on the break and almost took the lead when Jay Nash ran on to Billy Radley’s cross with his fierce shot cannoning back off the crossbar.
At the other end, Seal pulled off a fantastic save to keep the scores level at the break, showing great agility to claw over Newson’s header.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first with Newson unable to keep his shot down after Cunningham cushioned a Kieron Morphew cross into his path.
Andrew Plummer, in the Needham goal, saved his side’s blushes when rushing off his line to get a hand to Radley’s effort after a long goal kick caught the hosts’ defence square.
Billy Johnson was inches away from converting Radley’s fizzing low cross, while it looked like Needham’s profligacy would cost them as Hogg and Morphew put over the bar.
With Plummer stranded, Sam Nunn to clear off the line to keep the scoreline level 10 minutes from time before an incredulous Newson could not believe he was not awarded a penalty when his cross-shot struck a hand.
But from the proceeding corner Ingram sent the home fans wild with a curling delivery which Seal was unable to deal with at the far post.
There was not much of a scare as Needham rode out seven minutes of added time to get their season off to a winning start.
Ingram added: “They have come up and done ever so well to keep it level and you need a bit of luck sometimes.
“We want to win this league and sometimes you have to take a 1-0.
“We obviously want to play a bit better but we got the three points and you don’t get any more for scoring.”