Needham clinch the league title
DIVISION ONE NORTH
Chatham Town 0
Needham Market 5
Needham Market were crowned Ryman League Division One North champions after sealing the title in style away at Chatham Town.
Having squandered the chance to seal the championship a week previously, letting a two-goal lead slip away in a draw with nearest rivals Harlow Town, the Marketmen left nothing to chance with a five-goal demolition in Kent courtesy of Ian Westlake, Michael Brothers, Kemal Izzet, Sam Newson and Ryan Crisp.
And having finally got his hands on the trophy, captain Izzet, who enjoyed a long professional career with Colchester United, hailed the latest success among his proudest achievements.
“Any success is greatly welcomed at any level you play at,” he said.
“You have to be consistent to win a league and on the basis of the league we were the best team this year.
“The league table doesn’t lie and it is a very proud moment for me in my career.
“There were a lot of nervous players in that dressing room before the game but we did what we needed and in the perfect fashion.
“It means a lot to everyone at this club and I’m just incredibly proud to captain this side to the championship.
“We felt like we lost last week but we’re there now and we can all look forward to what next season brings.
“We are a good team and you don’t get to 104 points for no reason.
“I’m sure we will enjoy next season and on a personal level I love playing with these players and the entire club is great, it is just a pleasure to be here.”
Knowing only victory would guarantee the title and with it promotion, the nerves among the Needham players was evident early on as the home side appeared to settle the quickest in the early stages.
However, once those nerves had settled the visitors began to play with the freedom and fluidity that had seen them sit proudly at the top of the table for much of the season.
Their first real opening came after 20 minutes as Westlake rose highest to head Luke Ingram’s cross from the right goalbound, only to be denied by a smart save from Ryan Nicholls.
However, there was nothing the Chatham custodian could do 12 minutes later as Westlake opened the scoring in spectacular style.
Receiving the ball from Kieran Morphew on the left hand side of the area, the former Ipswich Town man spun onto his left foot before arrowing a strike across Nicholls and into the far side netting.
Brothers then had the ball in the net three minutes later but was rightly booked for using his hand in the process, before the striker made amends with a contender for goal of the season in the 44th minute.
Ingram did well down the right and delivered into the area where the powerful frontman twisted his body to acrobatically fire the ball into the bottom left corner.
With the Chatham defence left shell-shocked, they were quickly caught again just a minute later as Izzet capitalised on hesitant defending to burst into the area before being hauled down.
The skipper took the responsibility himself and made no mistake, slotting the ball into the bottom-right corner to send the visitors in at the break in total control, much to the delight of the travelling fans, who had already started the promotion party.
With a comfortable three-goal cushion in place, the second-half started with a bit of a lull in action until the 54th minute when the Marketmen added a fourth.
A flowing team move resulted in Westlake instinctively flicking the ball over the static Chatham defence for Newson to race into the area and rifle a low left-footed strike past the on rushing Nicholls.
The home side finally made a game of it in the following 10 minutes with Kieron McCann firing a stinging shot from the edge of the area down the throat of Shaun Phillips, before Liam Hickey saw a dangerous free-kick deflected wide for a corner.
At the other end, Ingram went close with a free-kick of his own with 20 minutes remaining while Newson also sent a first time right-footed strike narrowly wide after finding space in the area.
With victory secure, Needham introduced striker Crisp along with talented youngsters Adam Mills and Regan Pelling with the trio making an impact in the final 15 minutes.
And it was left to Crisp to cap off the party in the final moments. He got on the end a low drilled Kieron Morphew corss to score at the front post.
The travelling fans joined the players on the pitch after the final whistle as Izzet lofted the trophy above his head to cap a memorable season for the champions.