MATCH REPORT: Needham Market 0 Cambridge United 1
- Credit: James Ager
Needham Market bowed out of this year’s FA Cup with their heads held high, going down 1-0 to Conference Premier leaders Cambridge United at Bloomfields, on Saturday.
Substitute Adam Cunnington headed home fellow sub Mitch Austin’s deep cross at the back post with 10 minutes to go, leaving the majority of the 1,784 packed inside the ground breathing a huge sigh of relief.
In truth, the visiting U’s, who are seeking a return to the Football League after an eight-year absence, could have wrapped the Fourth Qualifying Round tie up long before Cunnington struck, but were denied by the outstanding James Shea.
The Londoner pulled off half a dozen stunning stops to deny the likes of Harrison Dunk, Luke Berry and Mitch Austin, while on-loan Crystal Palace striker Kwesi Appiah struck the bar with a first-half effort.
However, the longer the game went on, Needham, who maintained their footballing principles throughout and enjoyed the better of the first period, always had a chance.
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Chances were at a premium for the hosts but the complexion of the game would have been a lot different had Chris Maxwell not pushed out Sam Newson’s 35-yard tester in the eighth minute and then diverted Darryl Coakley’s close-range effort from a tight angle, on to the near post.
The second half saw Mark Morsley’s team on the back foot for large parts, something that wasn’t unexpected considering Cambridge’s full-time status and superior fitness.
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Market held two disciplined banks of four but only really showed an attacking edge after the visitors had gone in front, Ian Westlake having a late effort pushed out by Maxwell and Luke Ingram seeing his last-gasp cross pushed away by the stopper.
The hosts started the brighter of the two teams and before long it was clear that their opening salvo was not going to be a flash in the pan as they went toe-to-toe with a team, unbeaten in their division.
Jamie Guy was the first to show his intent, robbing defender Josh Coulson in a dangerous area before seeing his cross cleared.
Newson, who was causing the U’s backline all kinds of problems in his role just off former Cambridge loan striker Guy, then tested Maxwell from distance – the keeper, on a temporary deal from Fleetwood Town, doing well to beat the effort away to safety.
The Marketmen were utilising the flanks well and from one move down the left, winger Ryan Melaugh fed left-back Coakley who’s effort was palmed onto the post and away for a corner by Maxwell.
Up to that point, Cambridge had been second best and their first golden chance came only when they resorted to playing a long ball over the top.
Livewire striker Appiah took the ball down with aplomb and fired over Shea’s head, only to see his volley hit the underside of the bar before running out to safety.
After a long stoppage, following a clash of heads between Lee Townrow and Appiah, the game hit a lull until Shea made the first of a series of saves, tipping Dunk’s right-footed effort wide of his right-hand post.
Appiah then shot across goal when he should have done better, before Needham lost Newson who went down in a heap after trying to close down a clearance from Gregg Taylor.
The striker left the field and was replaced by Ryan Charles.
Shea then denied Ryan Donaldson before the break as Richard Money’s men finished the half on top.
The U’s began the second 45 minutes as they ended the first and were enjoyed plenty of possession with Charles isolated in attack for Needham.
Shea saved from Berry before the bandaged-up Townrow put in a mesmeric block to deny Appiah’s goal-bound shot.
Cunnington’s shot at the near post was then saved by Shea before the 22-year palmed away Dunk’s header.
It was quickly becoming Shea v Cambridge and the stopper was on hand again to tip Berry’s vicious effort on to the bar and then palmed Dunk’s shot away.
The lively Austin’s low cross was then diverted away by Shea’s feet before the youngster was finally beaten, Cunnington heading in virtually on the goalline.
The goal meant Needham had to be more offensive and Westlake almost levelled immediately, launching a ferocious shot that was beaten away by Maxwell.
The focus then turned back to Shea and after palming Appiah’s shot wide, he tipped over Liam Hughes’ bullet header from 10 yards.
Needham finished on the front-foot but after Maxwell palmed away Ingram’s cross. Nunn fired the rebound wide from close-range but the flag was already up for offside against the defender.
PHOTOS: JAMES AGER