GALLERY: Eight-man AFC Sudbury are defeated by Ryman North table-toppers Needham Market
- Credit: Su Anderson
Needham Market completed the most dramatic of turnarounds yesterday as they overcame Suffolk rivals AFC Sudbury, who ended the game with eight men, by three goals to one in a contest that was as absorbing and thrilling from the first minute to the last.
A game full of passion, determination, desire, and quality too – this game epitomised the love for non-league in the region – and left Needham boss Mark Morsley, who has managed Sudbury as well as the Marketmen, delighted.
“I thought we were outstanding,” he said, at the final whistle.
“The way we played and the way we managed to get back into the game in the manner we did was phenomenal.
“That second half was probably the best I’ve seen us play this season – I’m chuffed to pieces.”
Sudbury went into the interval ahead courtesy of Lawrence Yiga’s deflected strike, but Needham, who had Kem Izzet controversially sent off for two bookable offences in the first period, turned in an excellent second-half display as Luke Ingram, Ian Westlake, and Sam Newson all scored to complete a terrific turnaround.
Growing frustrated at proceedings, Sudbury players lost their discipline towards the end as Ryan Henshaw, Ryan Maxwell, and Craig Pope all received their marching orders from referee Nick Cooper.
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Following a minute’s silence for former Sudbury player Adie Hayes who sadly passed away recently, the game kicked off at quite a pace with table-toppers Needham the quicker to settle.
In fact, the Marketmen should have been celebrating an early goal but to everyone’s bemusement inside the 343-strong crowd at Brundon Lane, striker Newson lost his bearings after rounding Alex Archer – firing his off-balance effort high and wide of the gaping goal.
Sudbury grew into the half, and Needham keeper Shaun Phillips had to be at his best to stop a fierce drive from Sam Clarke with Sam Nunn reacting superbly to stop Jake Reed from gobbling up the rebound.
The deadlock was broken in the 22nd minute as big centre-half Yiga, Sudbury’s best outfield player on the day, saw his drilled effort creep into the net via Chris Hogg to wrong-foot Phillips.
Needham almost drew level through fierce efforts from full-backs Darryl Coakley and Ingram but the pair found the impressive Archer, and rattling crossbar in the way.
Izzet then controversially received his marching orders for ‘deliberate handball’ and ‘use of an elbow’ although in truth, they both looked very harsh decisions.
But Morsley’s men didn’t let that affect them as a spirited second-half display saw them overturn the deficit – and claim nothing less than they deserved – the three points.
Ingram showed composure from the spot to equalise after Newson was felled by a clumsy Henshaw challenge in the six-yard box following a clever ball from ex-Yellow Danny Cunningham.
This goal gave Needham the confidence they needed to push on, and from then on in it was largely one-way traffic as Archer found himself increasingly busy.
After saving Cunningham’s dangerous free-kick, the keeper denied Hogg with his legs, and kept out a close-range effort from Westlake as Needham continued to pepper the Sudbury goal.
You could sense a goal was coming, and in the 77th minute it did as Westlake, never renowned for his heading ability when a player at Ipswich Town or Leeds, met Newson’s perfect cross to net and cap off a superb flowing move.
Sudbury defender Henshaw was then sent off in the aftermath as his frustrations grew, with Maxwell joining him just a minute later following a reckless challenge on goalscorer Westlake.
Needham were hungry for more, and inspired by a super display in the centre of midfield from youngster Keiran Morphew, they rounded the game off in injury-time as Newson got the goal his day’s hard work deserved by poking home Phillips’ long goal-kick.
Pope saw red at the end for lashing out at Nunn, but it’s Needham who hold the bragging rights, and Needham who remain at the top of the Ryman North table with a 100 per cent record still intact.