Needham Market 3
Needham Market’s Richard Wilkins left the pitch with mixed emotions about his side grabbing a late point — but he believes the character on display shows they will beat the drop.
Before kick-off on Saturday a point against play-off chasing Hendon would probably have been welcomed for a side with the worst home record in the division.
But a great performance could have yielded much more than a last-minute equaliser from Adam Mills, his second of the game after pulling the Marketmen level on the hour mark. It followed two quickfire goals after the restart from Ashley Nathaniel-George.
Such was their domination in front of goal in the first half, which saw Jeremiah Kamanzi hit the back of the net before Josh Walker equalised ahead of the break, that manager Wilkins thought his side should have been four or even five-one up.
“One hundred per cent, as long as I have been in football, we deserved a minimum of a point today,” he said.
“Really the feelings are mixed because I am frustrated that we didn’t get all three, because we should have done. We have had literally a five-minute spell where they have scored their two goals.
“Other than that, Gaysey (Danny Gay) hasn’t had a save to make.
“We have had about 14 shots and their ‘keeper has made a great save from Heathy (Gareth Heath) in the second half and one has been deflected over.
“It is about time we got one that late though because it has happened a lot against us.
He said the resilience his side showed to claim something from the match will stand them in good stead to achieve their survival target.
Results elsewhere have left them just three points, previously five, and three places off bottom side Burgess Hill Town, who hold four games in hand.
“Their manager has said there is no way we should be hanging on where we are, but we are,” he said.
“Having been so dominant and to find ourselves 3-1 down, to get back shows a lot of strength, character and belief in the squad, and we are going to need that.
“We are having to work hard for things and the boys are totally committed.
“I know we are going to get out of where we are, but although a point is better than nothing, we are more than a match for any team at this level.
“It is just sometimes we don’t help ourselves and we had a bad five minute spell today and got punished.”
Wilkins boosted his squad with two initial one-month loan signings on the Friday, with Colchester United’s Under-23s’ Callum Sturgess starting at left-back and going on to give an assured display.
Meanwhile, right-back or attacking winger Brendan Ocran, from title-chasing Billericay Town, came off the bench to provide the cross for the late equaliser.
The first half was mainly one-way traffic with Mills having an early shot parried away and another blocked, while Gareth Heath sent a free-kick whistling just past the post.
Needham’s breakthrough came in the 13th minute when a free-kick on the edge of the area was rolled by Heath into the path of recent signing Kamanzi, who saw his low shot sneak into the left-hand side of the goal.
John Sands missed a glorious opportunity to increase his side’s lead when pulling his shot wide, before Hendon levelled in the 33rd minute when Walker converted from close-range after slack marking.
Heath sent a header wide before the break, while Simmons forced a low save from Corey Addai.
A disastrous four-minute spell from the 50th minute suddenly left Needham 3-1 down though.
Nathaniel-George was able to get to the left byline before leaving Jake Dye on the turf and cutting back up to the edge of the area before firing in on his favoured right foot into the far corner. His second owed more to good fortune after a couple of ricochets in the box from Zak Joseph’s cross presented him with a close-range finish.
A quick goal up the other end was needed, and it arrived six minutes later when Heath put the ball back into the box following his corner and Mills burst in at the far post to slide it under the goalkeeper.
Gay made a good save to deny Nathaniel-George his hat-trick, but other than that it was all Needham, who went close through Heath’s low skidding effort and Kamnanzi’s shot.
But just when it looked like another hard luck story was concluding at Bloomfields, Ocran’s quality low ball to the far post found Mills, who stabbed home.
The striker said: “It was the best game we probably started and we will take a point against a side like that.”
Needham travel to a 14th place Enfield side on Saturday (3pm) looking to take advantage of a side who have not won in their last four games.
Needham: Gay, Dye (Ocran 65’), Sturgess, Kamanzi, K Morphew, D Morphew, Ingram (Gibbs 90+3), Heath (c), Simmons, Sands, Mills.
Free Press Man of The Match: Adam Mills. Looked back to his best following long lay-off.
• Needham Market Reserves saw their schedule Thurlow Nunn League First Division match at Debenham LC on Tuesday postponed due to a water-logged pitch.
Steve Foley’s side host joint-top Woodbridge Town on Saturday (3pm), who include ex-Ipswich Town player Carlos Edwards in their squad.