FA CUP MATCH REPORT: Needham Market 1 Witham Town 2

Needham Market v Witham Town - FA Cup action. Needham in red. Needham's Ian Westlake battles with Wi

Needham Market v Witham Town - FA Cup action. Needham in red. Needham's Ian Westlake battles with Witham's Tom Wraight. - Credit: Archant

As Witham Town celebrated FA Cup history on Saturday, Needham Market, the victims of a devastating second-half blitz, were left concentrating on their future: gaining promotion in the league.

The Essex side progressed to the Fourth Round Qualifying stage of the competition for the first time. They left Bloomfields in a jubilant mood tinged with relief after Needham failed to convert a litany of chances.

As usual, Needham’s play was an aesthetic success: enthusiastic in their attacks and creative in their movement. They stretched Witham into a disjointed mess at times. Sam Newson and Ian Westlake embodied this dynamic approach.

But this positive assessment can only be extended to the opening 60 minutes, during which they only scored once – a penalty won by Westlake and converted by Kem Izzet on the stroke of half-time.

As Mark Morsley, the Needham manager, said in a pragmatic evaluation, that level of performance is required for 90 minutes and must feature a killer instinct.

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But Newson shot wide or at the keeper; a Chris Hogg header was blocked; Izzet headed just over.

The most obvious example of a miss, and perhaps the most significant, came 10 minutes after the interval. With Needham looking to double their lead, left-back Darryl Coakley found Westlake on the edge of the box. He spun sharply and accelerated towards the byline before dispatching a dangerous cross. It avoided everyone until right-back Luke Ingram arrived at the back post. But from about five yards out, he blasted over.

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Maybe the occasion got to them. The cup tie featured almost as many subplots as a Shakespeare tragedy: Witham grabbed a last-minute winner in an acrimonious Ryman Division One North play-off semi-final last season when Morsley had taken exception to the inclusion of Needham loanee Lee Townrow; understood to have been under a gentlemen’s agreement not to play.

Or maybe it was simply Witham’s explosive attacks which got the better of them. Their goals came during a ruthless five-minute spell shortly after Ingram’s glaring miss. It was a stirring chapter of the game during which the visitors completely dismantled their opponents.

They were inspired by the masterful James Stevens; the central midfielder who displayed an unerring accuracy from set pieces and a keen eye for a telling through ball.

It was his long-range shot which forced Shaun Phillips, the Needham number one, to concede a corner. It was fizzed in and Tom Wraight scored an uncontested header.

It galvanised the visitors. Defender Conor Mead linked well with right winger Daniel Emmanuel. He teed up Stevens, whose first-time shot from 20 yards was too strong for Phillips.

Needham failed to recover from the sudden implosion. They fought hard and Westlake went close late on, but a tense conclusion was never likely.

Needham Market: S Phillips, L Ingram, D Coakley, O Fenn, C Hogg, S Nunn, I Westlake, K Izzet, D Cunningham (R Crisp, 53), K Morphew (A Howell, 74), S Newson. Subs not used: B Heath, L Howell, A Mills, N Munson.

Witham Town: M Guest, C Mead, S Murfet, L Townrow, P King, L Godbold, D Emmanuel (B Stopher, 89), J Stevens, K Smith (S Pedulu, 63), J Watson (U Adeniji, 63), T Wraight. Subs not used: R Charles, J Regis, J Mayhew, J Robinson.

Attendance: 339.

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