Gallery: Needham Market seal Ryman North title
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Classy Needham Market clinched the Ryman Division One North title in style on Saturday with a thumping 5-0 victory over Chatham Town.
Superlative strikes from Ian Westlake and Michael Brothers, as well as a Kem Izzet penalty, gave the Suffolk side a comfortable half-time margin before excellent team goals finished by strikers Sam Newson and Ryan Crisp sweetly rounded up a historic day for the club.
Needham Market Football Club have never experienced Step 3 football, but they will next season as they end the campaign with an astonishing 104 points.
The Suffolk side, who threw away a 2-0 lead to draw with second-place Harlow Town last weekend, never looked likely of losing their place at the top of the table on Saturday.
Dominant from the first whistle to the last, it was a vintage display from Mark Morsley’s men, epitomised by the sheer class of Westlake’s wicked opening goal in the 31st minute.
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Following an eye-catching move that saw the bullish Keiran Morphew glide his way forward with an abundance of one-twos, former Ipswich Town star Westlake held off his marker, swivelled on a six-pence, and lashed home an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top corner from just outside the box.
The goal was breathtakingly good, and one of real beauty.
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Even before this stunning strike, Westlake had looked in the mood – his powerful 20th-minute header bringing the best out of Chatham goalkeeper Ryan Nicholls.
Opponents Chatham had only secured their Step 4 safety the week before, and although well-beaten on the day, the Kent-based team did cause Needham a scare in the 24th minute as the hosts’ stand-out player Austin Edwards volleyed a fearsome effort narrowly wide.
But Needham never looked back after Westlake’s moment of magic as their fluent style continued to cause Chatham problems.
Michael Brothers, so impressive since his return to Bloomfields following spells at Leiston and Brightlingsea Regent earlier this season, was immense on Saturday.
Strong, determined, quick-thinking, and clever with the ball, the striker was probably a little bit too keen in the 33rd minute as his raised arm knocked a high cross into the back of the net.
Booked for his troubles and with the goal rightly ruled out, the effort hardly turned out to be a ‘Hand of God’ moment, but it wasn’t long before the striker ignited the game with a spectacular strike that will live long in the memory.
Following a lightning fast 43rd-minute break involving Newson and Luke Ingram, who glided forward at every opportunity, it was the latter’s cross that saw the airborne Brothers audaciously perform an inch-perfect overhead kick that could not have been better placed as it nestled into the bottom corner with aplomb.
Roared on by the vocal travelling support, Brothers had the celebration to match as he surfed the Chatham corner flag, before being hounded upon by his joyful team-mates.
And just as Needham fans had stopped singing ‘Oh, Michael van Brothers’ (in reference to Dutch darts player Michael van Gerwen), the travelling support had more reasons to be cheerful as Izzet won a penalty.
Felled by a clumsy challenge, the former Colchester United captain dusted himself down before coolly rolling home the spot-kick to give Needham a convincing and compelling 3-0 interval lead.
Compelling indeed to second-place Harlow, who still harboured hopes of pinching the title, and automatic promotion, from Needham before and during the first 45 minutes.
But the damage was already done. The Suffolk side were not going to give up their title this weekend.
And sure enough, Needham were in cruise control early in the second half with 30+ goal striker Newson at his clinical best in the 54th-minute as he swept home a delightful team move, mainly instigated by the influential Westlake.
As comfortable as you like, Needham’s job was now simple as their fans bellowed chants such as ‘Are you watching Harlow Town?’ and ‘We are going up’ in the bright Kent sunshine.
Manager Morsley stood a delighted figure on the touchline, even attempting two pieces of close control when the ball fell to him out of play, although on one occasion he nearly fell over after losing his footing!
Morsley deserves a lot of credit for managing this team to glory.
Blending experience with an abundance of promising youth, Needham’s fifth and final goal was a fitting one, made mostly from the club’s academy.
You had the feeling when the trio of Ryan Crisp, Adam Mills, and Regan Pelling entered the fray, something would happen – and in the 90th minute it did.
Mills’ sweet lay-off was taken on by the industrious Morphew, who burst forward before spraying a pass to Pelling.
He showed great pace before putting in a pin-point cross that saw Crisp nip in and tuck the ball in the net to put the icing on the cake of an outstanding team performance – one worthy of winning any championship.
As the full-time whistle blew, the celebrations started, the fans flocked onto the pitch, the horns roared, the champagne sprayed, the spectators clapped in admiration, the injured Ollie Brown performed a John Terry-like full-kit celebration, and Mr Morsley wore a beaming smile.
Needham Market Football Club will play Ryman Premier Division football next season – and it is fully-deserved – the table doesn’t lie.
Chatham Town: Nicholls, Benbow, Collins, Hawkins (Watson 80), Hickey, Loft, Holder (c), Humber (McCardle 63), McCann, Edwards, French. Subs not used: Taylor, Steventon.
Needham Market: Phillips, Fenn, Coakley, Hogg, Nunn, Morphew, Izzet (c), Ingram (Pelling 80), Westlake, Brothers (Crisp 72), Newson (Mills 80). Subs not used: Whight, Munson.
Referee: Daniel Bonneywell