DIVISION ONE NORTH
Soham Town Rangers 3
Needham Market 2
Needham Market manager Mark Morsley has challenged the club’s talented academy players to prove they deserve a place in his squad next year.
An entertaining game at Julius Martin Lane, saw goals from Robbie Mason, Buster Harradine and Lewis McDonald in between equalising strikes from youngsters Elliott Crowe and Matt Poxon, narrowly separate the sides and secure Soham all three points over Morsley’s young Marketmen.
But after watching a host of his young stars impress and Needham’s promotion ambitions all but extinguished, the manager has revealed he will use the remainder of the season to see if those starlets can live up to their potential and stake a claim for a place in his future plans.
“Despite the result it was great to see some of the academy boys get a start and I was very pleased with how bright they were, there is a lot of pluses,” he said.
“Both goals were scored by 17-year-old boys and that is extremely promising looking ahead.
“I am learning more about those players all the time and now it is up to them to show me from now until the end of the season that they are good enough to be merged into a squad capable of pushing for promotion next season.”
A bright start from the hosts saw both Mason and Asensi both come close to opening the scoring before the former finally broke the deadlock after 20 minutes.
James McCabe delivered a teasing cross into the area from the right and with Louis Johnson enticed into trying punch the ball, the alert Mason bravely beat the custodian to the ball, to head home into an empty net.
Just five minutes later, Rangers were inches away from doubling their advantage but Michael Simpson could only watch on as his spectacular acrobatic effort came crashing back of the right upright with Johnson stranded.
And they were left to rue their missed opportunities as against the run of play Needham levelled after 27 minutes. The lively Pat Bexfield beat four players on his way into the area before seeing his low drive saved well by Dan Bircham, only for the ball to be presented to the perfectly-placed Crowe to head home.
However, the visitors were not ahead long as just four minutes later Soham restored their advantage.
A free-flowing move down the right, customary of the hosts’ play throughout the day, saw the ball fall to Buster Harradine inside the area, who unleashed an unstoppable looping shot into the far right corner, giving his side the lead going into the break.
Rangers continued that momentum through into the second period and came close to further extending their lead as Johnson tipped over a stinging drive from Mason after being released by McCabe.
After a period of few chances for either side, Morsley’s side were level again in the 77th minute as Poxon found himself in space inside the area to sweep a right-footed shot beyond the reach of Bircham into the bottom left corner.
But just as they did before, the home side restored their lead within a matter of minutes. Harradine’s deep free-kick from the right-hand side saw two substitutes combine perfectly as Matt Robinson flicked the ball on for McDonald to prod home from five-yards out.
With victory seemingly secured, Needham came agonisingly close to snatching a share of the spoils in injury-time.
Crowe’s weaving run and cross down the left found Poxon to attempt an audacious overhead kick, but with breaths gasped, Bircham managed to get down and hold onto the ball, calling an end to a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
Needham: Johnson, Bexfield, Fox, Fenn, Boyland, R Barber, Crowe, Ford (Leabon 71), Poxon, Clarke (B Barber 71), Thrower (Newson 71)
Free Press man of the match: Elliott Crowe