Needham Market manager Mark Morsley hailed the impact of Adam Mills at the end of a memorable week for the 17-year-old starlet.
Mills followed up signing a two-year contract at Bloomfields by netting twice in the under-18s’ heroic FA Youth Cup defeat at Football League outfit Stevenage last Thursday before bagging the senior side’s late winner over Redbridge on Tuesday.
That got Morsley’s men back on track following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to title rivals Harlow Town and put them back on top of Ryman League Division One North ahead of tomorrow’s visit from Chatham Town (3pm).
“He’s another great young lad — we’ve got a number of them — and you have to continue to give credit to Kevin Horlock and his team at the academy,” he said. “The lad’s got half a chance now because he’s got himself a two-year contract and he’s in the first-team squad, so it’s now down to him. “We’ve got a wonderful academy with wonderful people and I’m very lucky to be first-team manager with that as back-up.”
Needham had 15 attempts to Redbridge’s three in the first half, but they could not find any way past inspired visiting custodian Mark Parker.
Danny Cunningham saw his volleyed cross deflected on to the crossbar and Kem Izzet drove wide in the opening minutes before Parker took over as the star man.
He somehow pushed Ollie Fenn’s close-range shot over the bar, kept out Ryan Crisp’s point-blank strike and also denied Izzet when one-on-one from Cunningham’s quick free-kick.
The lively Ollie Brown shaved the bar with a spectacular left-footed volley, but Needham also had a let-off when Gavin Cockman headed Joe Gent’s right-wing cross back across goal from inside the six-yard box with Shaun Phillips stranded.
Cunningham and Crisp also headed straight at Parker as the first period drew to a close and the away team’s goalkeeper was at his best again early in the second half to rush out and block from Ollie Brown,
The game became more disjointed as — seemingly from out of nowhere — tempers started to boil over, but substitute Mills finally provided the clinical touch the hosts required when bundling home Luke Ingram’s low right-wing cross at the far post.
“We could have loads of goals,” added Morsley. “We kept plugging away and banging on the door, but the goalkeeper kept pulling off great saves. It was important to win, important to work hard and important to reach a level of performance, which I thought we did in the first half.
“The only thing that was lacking was the final touch.”
Five days earlier, Mills starred as Needham Market Under-18s pushed the youth side of Football League outfit Stevenage all the way in the FA Youth Cup.
With a crowd of 255 watching on at the Lamex Stadium, Jack Storer fired Stevenage in front, only for Mills to win and convert the equaliser from the penalty spot.
Jamie Silvester fired the hosts back in front and Brandon Carney made it 3-1, but Mills lashed Needham back into the game and Taylor Bannister’s sweet left-footed strike brought it back to 3-3.
However, Stevenage had the final say as Carney headed them into the next round in the dying minutes.
Morsley added: “I watched Millsy in the game at Stevenage and there were a lot of scouts there to watch Ace Howell, but Millsy was the best player on the pitch, bar none.”
Howell has been on trial with Ipswich Town all week and is set to face Arsenal tomorrow.
Should the Tractor Boys decide not to take the winger on, there are other interested clubs waiting in the wings.
Sam Newson and Ian Westlake (both ankle) are unlikely to return to first-team action tomorrow, but Rhys Henry is in contention for his second Needham debut after completing his transfer back to Bloomfields.
Lamell Howell, who joined Needham after his release from Cambridge United, is taking a break from the game.
n Needham Market Reserves are not in action tomorrow, but host Debenham LC in the Suffolk Senior Cup on Wednesday.
Ryan Rampley (two), Taylor Bannister, Kyran Field and Cory Gittens scored in their 5-5 draw with Cornard United in the Thurlow Nunn First Division on Saturday and they followed that up on Wednesday with a 2-0 defeat at home to Haverhill Borough.