GALLERY: Needham Market 3 Romford 0
- Credit: Andy Abbott
Needham Market got off to the perfect start in their new Ryman League Division One North campaign, although the scoreline flattered the hosts a little.
A free-kick from debutant Ian Westlake after 90 seconds put the Marketmen in control and, had it not been for some good goalkeeping and poor finishing, Mark Morsley’s team could have been out of sight at the break, against a limited-looking Romford side.
The visitors lacked invention during the first half, hitting numerous long balls that were well dealt with by the home defence.
However, by the time late goals from Lee Townrow and substitute Sam Newson had finished them off, they could feel a little aggrieved at the scoreline.
Former Ipswich, Leeds and Walsall star Westlake made the perfect start to his semi-professional career, firing a left-footed free-kick over the wall and past Aaron Omand, with the aid of a deflection, after just 90 seconds.
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This lifted the hosts who went for the jugular soon after, and the lively Luke Ingram went close to doubling the home side’s advantage, only to see his back-post header from Darryl Coakley’s excellent deep cross brilliantly kept out by Omand’s flying, one-handed stop.
Needham were making full use of the lush Bloomfields turf and were stretching their opponents, using the width given to them by Ingram and Ryan Charles - the latter twice going close with efforts, one of which went narrowly wide.
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Westlake, who hardly gave the ball away in 90 minutes, then went close with a snap-shot from distance that went just wide of the post before Guy, another high-profile summer signing, went close.
The former Colchester man drifted towards the edge of the box and flicked a clever header towards goal from Townrow’s free-kick – the ball just evading the far post.
It looked plain sailing for Morsley’s men, going into the break, but one lapse of concentration almost cost them, and they were grateful to Sam Nunn’s last-ditch tackle in the six-yard box, the big defender cutting out Luke Stanley’s cut-back with George Woodward ready to pounce.
The visitors looked far more of a threat in the second period and after Sheridan Driver went close with an effort that just cleared the bar for Needham, the Essex team raised their game.
Stanley was becoming more of a nuisance out wide and after Woodward had scuffed a shot wide, Romford missed a golden chance to equalise.
One of the heroes of the first half, Nunn almost became the villain of the piece when he allowed Romford skipper Kurt Smith a clear run on goal. However, the visiting player fluffed his lines, producing a limp effort saw Andrew Plummer make a sharp save 10 yards out.
Newson was introduced into the game for Charles and immediately joined Guy in attack, giving the Marketmen more menace.
However, it was the impressive Townrow that missed the next chance, heading a free header wide from Westlake’s right-wing cross.
The hosts doubled their advantage with 11 minutes to go and this time Townrow couldn’t miss, on the goalline, touching in Guy’s header from Westlake’s lofted free-kick.
Into stoppage time and Newson wrapped the game up, the striker taking the ball along the byline from a short corner before firing low past the keeper and into the near post, from a tight angle.