Needham Market 0
Havant & Waterlooville 0
Needham Market head into their final five league games of the season still in the play-offs after this hard-fought draw with promotion rivals Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday.
The Marketmen, playing in what is only their second season at Step Three in the Ryman League Premier Division, went into the clash knowing they could end the weekend outside the top five for the first time in 175 days.
But a goalless draw at Bloomfields, coupled with defeats for play-off hopefuls Dulwich Hamlet and Tonbridge Angels means Needham remain in the play-offs heading into tomorrow’s trip to Staines Town (3pm).
Although it was the Marketmen who came the closest to scoring, the recently returning Callum Harrison, who has rejoined the club on a permanent deal after being released by Colchester United, hit the post late on, the hosts were indebted to their goalkeeper Danny Gay for making a couple of good saves to deny title chasers Havant.
“I thought it was a good game with both teams fighting tooth and nail,” said Needham’s assistant manager Richard Wilkins.
“We’ve come closest to scoring, hitting the inside of the post, but probably a point was a fair result.
“They may have slightly edged the first half, but we were better in the second half. I thought it was a good all-round performance.
“It was important to keep a clean sheet, we’ve been conceding sloppy goals recently. All the players on the pitch gave 100 per cent and we’ve now taken four points off Havant this year, which not many teams have done.”
Since the impressive comeback win away at Tonbridge Angels on March 4, the Marketmen have endured a slump in their league form, picking up just one point from their previous three games heading into Saturday’s meeting with second place Havant.
Needham produced arguably their best performance of the season in the reverse fixture in Hampshire back in January, as they led 3-0 at half time before seeing out a 3-1 win.
Harrison’s second loan spell with the Marketmen ended after that win, but the hard-working midfielder was back in a red shirt on Saturday after signing a deal with the club before the game until the end of the season.
In a first half of few chances, the visitors had the ball in the net on 18 minutes through Ryan Woodford, but the linesman flagged for offside to end his premature celebrations.
Needham began on the front foot in the second half, but their best chance to score did not come until 13 minutes from time.
Harrison’s strike was touched onto the post by Havant goalkeeper Ryan Young and cleared away to keep the two sides level.
Needham Market: Gay, Coakley, Whight, Holland, Miller, Nunn, Ingram, Izzet, Harrison, Sands, Dobson. Subs not used: Clark, Crisell, Booth, Turner, Bradbrook. Attendance: 434. Free Press man of the match: Sam Nunn.