Non-league latest: Bleak outlook for leagues, plus Needham at Gloucester City in FA Trophy
- Credit: Carl Marston
Gloucester City 4 Needham Market 2
Needham Market fought bravely at National League North leaders Gloucester City, even after conceding three early goals, before bowing out of the FA Trophy 4-2 at New Meadow Park.
Josh Pollard and Ben Fowkes both scored excellent goals, either side of half-time, but in the end the Marketmen were made to pay for their slow start in this second round tie.
Needham suffered the worst possible start, falling behind after just 65 seconds to set the tone for an evening of high drama.
Bernard Mensah burst into the box to hammer a rising shot into the roof of the net, past Marcus Garnham.
It was to prove a busy night for Garnham, and he had to be at his best to beat away a goalbound drive by ex-Colchester United midfielder Tommy O'Sullivan on eight minutes.
However, Garnham was beaten for a second time just four minutes later, Matt McClure ramming a close-range shot into net despite as assistant's raised flag.
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It was a very open game, with Needham enjoying their share of attacking, and Byron Lawrence fired a free-kick into the defensive wall on 20 minutes.
Keiran Morphew conceded a penalty in the 27th minute, but Garnham made sure that it wasn't costly by superbly stopping McClure's spot kick with strong hands.
The Marketmen came within a whisker of halving the deficit in the 29th minute. Gareth Heath's curling shot looked a goal all the way, but cannoned back off the inside of the post, and Luke Ingram scuffed his shot from the rebound across goal and wide.
Gloucester looked to be out of sight when Jack James tucked home their third goal in the 33rd minute, after Garnham had done well to block the initial shot by McClure.
Yet Pollard reduced the deficit with a fantastic 20-yard shot on 40 minutes, and home keeper Reece Lovett had to be alert to gather Callum Page's thunderous long-range shot before half-time.
However, Fowkes made further inroads into City's lead with the Marketmen's second, eight minutes into the second half, a clinch finish from the ex-Norwich United attacker.
And Needham continued to press until James managed to rob Garnham near the keeper's goal-line to bundle home his second and City's fourth on 71 minutes.
That effectively killed off the game.
NEEDHAM: Garnham, Marsden (sub Pollard, 19), Sturgess, Lawrence, D Morphew, K Morphew, Ingram, Heath, Page (sub Mills, 86), Collard (sub Hunt, 78), Fowkes. Unused subs: Fitzgerald, Santa, Elsdon.
Meanwhile, the return of the Trident Leagues looks further away than ever, with the news that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be entering Tier 3 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
There seems no prospect of Suffolk's leading non-league clubs returning to league action before the new year, at the very earliest, with even more clubs being severely impacted by the new tier announcements since the recent vote, by the 224 clubs, to continue to 'pause' the league season.
Bury Town, AFC Sudbury and Felixstowe & Walton United are all currently left frustrated by the suspension of the Isthmian League, as are Needham Market, Leiston and Lowestoft Town in their Step 3 Southern League Premier Central.
League matches have not been played since the start of lockdown 2 at the beginning of November.
A local-based Festive Football Festival, featuring Suffolk's top six non-league teams had been planned over the Christmas period, but Bury and Lowestoft have chosen not to take part, while Needham Market are still going strong in the FA Trophy.