Needham Market's incredible FA Trophy run continues
- Credit: Paul Voller
Needham Market moved into more unchartered waters with a magnificent team performance to reach the last eight of the FA Trophy by beating higher-league Dartford 1-0 yesterday.
This latest historic achievement, following the previous cup wins over Margate, Wealdstone, and the epic victory at Yeovil, was fully deserved against a stunned Dartford team from the Vanarama South, who are well placed for promotion to the National League, and had won their last four matches.
There were delirious scenes at a packed Bloomfields at the final whistle as a humbled Darts side, with heads largely bowed, made their exit, with the home side sharing their success with joyous supporters.
In truth the Marketmen deserved nothing less, as at times they outplayed the higher-ranked side and ultimately forced them into submission.
Needham boss Kevin Horlock, a former Manchester City, West Ham and Ipswich Town midfielder, produced a masterplan that Steve King, the Dartford manager, could not counter.
This, the latest biggest game in their history, was watched by 1,011 spectators, including around 350 supporters from Kent.
Horlock played the same side that beat Yeovil with the exception that Taylor Clark was on the bench, and the relatively new signing Patrick Brothers was in the starting line-up.
Dartford, seeking to reach the fifth round for the first time in nine years, included the twin strikeforce of Ade Azeez, and ex-Billericay star Jake Robinson, who have struck 19 goals between them.
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The game kicked off with Needham benefiting from the strong wind at their backs, and in the second minute Callum Page tested Dan Wilkes from 25 yards with a strike the keeper comfortably held.
Kyle Hammond made a significant tackle on Luke Allen, and twice home keeper Marcus Garnham was quick to leave his line to thwart both Azeez and Robinson as the visitors looked dangerous on the break.
A home free-kick eluded a high line defence, and Luke Ingram had a half chance, but was unable to control the ball and the effort went wide. Needham full-back Jake Dye produced a great tackle tracking Azeez, Dartford’s leading scorer, as he ventured to the edge of the box.
The first real chance fell to the home side when Ingram chased the ball to the byline and squared to Noah Collard, but the ball bounced awkwardly with the goal at his mercy, and his effort struck the post.
At the other end Danny Leonard dispatched a fine cross to the far post and Azeez just failed to head the ball down as it cleared Garnham’s upright.
Leonard was proving a handful on the right, and cutting inside struck a fierce shot on the run, but Garnham made a brilliant save at the expense of a corner.
Hammond then released Harvey Sayer who left two defenders in his wake before unleashing a fine effort that Dan Wilkes saved.
Needham played some super football after the break, sometimes giving the Dartford defence a torrid time, and they rode their luck when Jake Dye powerfully sent a shot against the post and Ingram twice rattled the woodwork.
There was much anxiety from the visiting bench and King made three substitutions in an attempt to alleviate his side’s abject performance against the lower ranked team, but matters deteriorated on 73 minutes when Dan Morphew was pushed in the box following a corner.
The referee awarded a penalty and man of the match Ingram made no mistake.
The same player had a great chance to make it two before Garnham made a vital save in added time.
However, it’s Horlock’s village side that go into tomorrow’s draw where, whatever happens, their opponents will be from the elite of non-league football.