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Captain comes up trumps for cup holders Needham

MATCH WINNER: Gareth Heath (8) scored the winning goal on Tuesday (Picture: Ben Pooley)
MATCH WINNER: Gareth Heath (8) scored the winning goal on Tuesday (Picture: Ben Pooley)




Needham Market 3

Felixstowe & Walton United 2

A late goal from captain Gareth Heath sent the holders Needham Market through to the semi-finals of the Omni Freight Services Suffolk Premier Cup, at the expense of a plucky Felixstowe & Walton United, at Bloomfields on Tuesday night.

On a bitterly cold evening, the Marketmen had looked like they were going to negotiate this quarter-final tussle against the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division leaders with the minimal of fuss.

Heath’s 10th-minute free-kick and a Dan Morphew penalty on 22 minutes had given the hosts a 2-0 lead against their lower-league opponents.

However, the Seasiders responded in ruthless fashion with two goals barely 90 seconds apart, as Joe Francis and Kye Ruel both struck in quick succession to level the tie on 34 minutes.

An entertaining first half was followed by a more attritional 45 minutes, with penalties appearing to be the likeliest method to decide the contest, before Heath squeezed home substitute Brendan Ocran’s cross nine minutes from time.

“It was one of those matches where it’s just good to get through,” Richard Wilkins, the Needham manager, reflected.

“I said to the lads before the game: ‘you can make this easy in the first half hour, 45 minutes’, and we looked like we were making it easy.

“But we pressed the self-destruct button. We made mistakes and they punished us for them.”

The Marketmen are now just two games away from retaining Suffolk’s leading cup competition, with a semi-final showdown against Leiston, Bury Town or Kirkley & Pakefield awaiting them, but Wilkins, the former Leiston and Bury boss, only expects an all-Bostik League Premier Division tie in the last four.

“Whatever team I’ve been at we’ve always played Leiston in the semi-finals,” he said. “We always seem to pick each other and I’m not expecting anything else.

“I do think we’re playing a lot better than last season, football-wise, but it’s probably a little bit of naivety which has been costly for us.

“I’m pleased to get through and for the lads to get some much-needed minutes in before Saturday.”

Needham Market: Gay, K Morphew (Dye 79), Sturgess, Kamanzi, Nunn, D Morphew, Ingram, Heath (c), Gibbs, Harrison (Griffiths 72), Mills (Ocran 65). Subs not used: Sands, Shorten. Booked: Mills, Sturgess. Att: 262. Free Press man of the match: Heath.

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