GALLERY: Needham Market lose at home to Brentwood Town in Ryman North

Needham Market FC v Brentwood Town FC.
Division One North.
Ian Westlake in action for Needham.

Needham Market FC v Brentwood Town FC. Division One North. Ian Westlake in action for Needham. - Credit: Archant

Needham Market’s fantastic winning run, at the start of this season, was ended by Brentwood Town last night.

Impressive Needham had won their first seven league and cup games, including six successes in the Ryman North, but that record was ruined following a below-par display.

Brentwood had already beaten Redbridge and Great Wakering Rovers on their league travels this season, and they were good value for their early lead at Bloomfields.

Young striker Alex Akrofi’s delightful lob over Shaun Phillips put the visitors ahead on nine minutes, and that set the tone for the evening.

Needham really struggled to get a foothold in the game, but they were handed a lifeline by a fantastic free-kick from Luke Hammond, which sailed into the net in the 42nd minute.

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However, Brentwood were the better team after the break. Ex-Colchester United youth team keeper Phillips performed heroics to save substitute Martyn Stokes’ 62nd minute penalty, but could do nothing about the winning goal, which arrived with 13 minutes remaining.

Sam Bantick’s cracking free-kick, from 25 yards out, left Phillips clutching at thin air.

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It was no more than Brentwood deserved, and Needham’s first defeat of the campaign also saw them dislodged off top spot, replaced by unbeaten Harlow.

Lack-lustre Needham, who were without skipper Kem Izzet (on holiday), had actually bossed the early possession, but it was the Essex visitors who threatened first.

Phillips did well to keep out skipper Ryan O’Rawe’s close-range flick at the near post, from Robbie Rees’ seventh minute corner.

And two minutes later Brentwood duly took the lead, thanks to a slick finish by Academy product Akrofi.

Needham’s defence was caught napping from Bantick’s well-weighted through ball, allowing front-runner Akrofi to burst clear and lob onrushing keeper Phillips.

The goal rocked the Marketmen, and they were struggling again on 12 minutes when Keiran Morphew lost possession in the middle of the park. The home defence were stretched as the final shot by Rees was clutched from beneath his bar by Phillips.

A minute later and the hosts finally created a scoring chance, with Ace Howell curling a shot just inches wide of the far upright.

But Needham continued to look vulnerable at the other end, as was the case in the 17th minute when a rasping shot by Jason Dobbs forced another good save from the busy Phillips.

Goalscorer and danger-man Akrofi caused a nuisance of himself again on 20 minutes, deep inside the Needham box, although his final delivery eluded everyone as it flashed across goal.

There was a promising moment for the Suffolk side as Sam Newson and Ian Westlake combined to good effect with a one-two, but Newson lost control just when he was preparing to shoot and keeper Olly Bowles cleaned up.

It had been a frustrating first half-hour for the Marketmen, although left-back Darryl Coakley’s opportunist 30-yarder at least forced a save out of Bowles.

However, a moment of magic by Hammond enabled Needham to equalise just three minutes before half-time.

Westlake was tripped, just outside the penalty area, by right-back Jack Gardner, and Hammond fired the ensuing free-kick into the roof of the net.

Needham had the ball in the back of the net again just a minute later, but defender Sam Nunn’s header was ruled out for a foul by the big defender.

Akrofi should really have regained the lead for Brentwood in the 54th minute. Skipper Oliver Fenn’s poor pass was intercepted, and suddenly Akrofi was through on goal.

He steered his shot beyond keeper Phillips, only for the ball to roll agonisingly wide of the far post.

There was another lucky escape for the hosts just two minutes later, as a thunderous shot by Bantick cannoned off the bar, with Phillips getting a touch.

Still the danger was not over and, from the next corner, Morphew was in the right place to head away O’Rawe’s powerful header off the goal-line.

Phillips came to Needham’s rescue again in the 62nd minute, this time with an excellent penalty save.

Livewire Akrofi again scampered clear of the static home defence and his heels were clipped by Phillips as the striker attempted to round the keeper.

Phillips was given a yellow rather than a red card, because the ball was rolling wide of goal, with defenders scurrying back.

Substitute Stokes took on the responsibility from the spot, but his penalty was well smothered by Phillips, who guessed the right way by diving low to his right to cling onto the ball.

Needham stepped up a gear during the last quarter of the game. Substitute Ryan Crisp was close to diverting home Newson’s 71st minute cross, and from the ensuing corner, centre-half Nunn sent a free header soaring over the bar.

But it was Brentwood who grabbed all three points. Morphew hacked down Akrofi, 25 yards from goal, and Bantick crashed an unstoppable free-kick into the roof of the net.

Needham huffed and puffed late on, but did not really deserve anything from this showing.

This has still been a fine start to the season, by Mark Morsley’s men, but they will need to up their game against Thamesmead in another home league clash on Saturday.

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