DIVISION ONE NORTH
Enfield Town 1 Needham Market 0
At The Queen Elizabeth Stadium
NEEDHAM Market’s dreams of clinching promotion to the Ryman League Premier Division were dashed on Sunday following a narrow 1-0 play-off final defeat to Enfield Town.
The Marketmen booked their place in the final following a dramatic 4-3 victory in extra-time away at Tilbury just two days earlier and the rigours of that encounter appeared evident as the hosts enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and chances.
The decisive moment came after just 17 minutes as the lively Adam Wallace skipped past Ollie Fenn on the left hand side before delivering a wickedly whipped in cross for Wallid Matata to head home from six yards leaving keeper Liam Jones helpless.
Against the run of the play, the visitors appeared to have found a way back into the match in the 30th minute, with what appeared to be a perfectly valid penalty claim after Deakin Napier raced on to a long ball before appearing to be brought down by Enfield Town goalkeeper Noel Imber.
However, the officials disagreed as the protests were waved away, much to Napier’s and the travelling Needham fans’ disbelief.
The home side continued to create the only clear openings of the half as the league’s leading marksman Liam Hope wasted a good opportunity, curling a left-footed shot over the bar when well placed in the 40th minute, before Rudi Hall sent a free-kick on the edge of the area whistling inches wide to signal the end of a dominant first period for Enfield.
The second half started as the first ended with Town controlling the tie and they almost doubled their advantage nine minutes after the restart.
Hall released Wallace beyond the Needham defence with an acute ball, but after racing into the area the winger could not beat Jones as he managed to tip the left-foot shot across goal around the far post and away for a corner.
Just as they did in the first half, the visitors appeared to have found a way back into the match against the run of the play in the 64th minute as captain Rhys Barber followed in Sam Newson’s parried shot to slot home the close-range rebound.
However, the celebrations were cut short by the assistant’s flag, who adjudged Barber to be in an offside position.
This appeared to give Needham a new found impetus as the visitors seized upon momentum and dominated the remainder of the encounter.
First Napier jinked his way past defender David Kendall, cut in from the left-hand side before firing narrowly wide of the left-hand post as the visitors continued to try and find an equaliser.
Six minutes from time, they created their best chance to do just that as Pip Boyland’s long ball into the area was flicked on by substitute Duane Wright to Newson, but the striker’s header from inside the six-yard box was saved easily by Imber as a leveller continued to elude the Marketmen.
That was to be their final chance as Enfield held on in a nervy additional five minutes to spark wild celebrations at the final whistle among the home fans as the visitors were left dejected by the heart ache of play-off defeat for the second time in as many seasons.
Needham: Jones 7, Fenn 6 (Evans 57 6), Wikinson 6, B Barber 7, BOYLAND 8, R Barber 7, Newson 7, Harrop 6, Bloomfield 6 (Wright 76 6), McGlone 6, Napier 7 (Chaplin 78 6)
Subs not used: De’Ath, Smith
Shots on target 3 2
Shots off target 7 4
Woodwork 0 0
Corners 8 1
Offsides 2 2
FK conceded 11 7
Bookings: Needham: None Enfield: Hall (foul), Brian Hammatt (foul)
Red cards: None
Referee: Mr Webb