Needham Market fail to finish in Ryman Premier play-offs after spirited Billericay Town defeat
- Credit: Archant
Ten-man Needham Market’s Ryman Premier Division play-off dreams ended on Saturday, but not without a fight.
In truth, The Marketmen needed a miracle if they were to creep into the top five, and although Enfield and Dulwich Hamlet’s results did help their cause, they fell to a 2-1 home defeat to a Billericay side, who included former Premier League stars Paul Konchesky and Jamie O’Hara in their starting XI.
In hindsight, Needham would have needed to beat Billericay 6-0 to finish in the play-offs – the same margin they lost by in the reverse fixture, in mid-February.
This result, and performance, was quite an improvement then from just over two months ago. In fact, the Marketmen, who were harshly reduced to 10 men just after they equalised late in the second half, found themselves unlucky not to get anything from this game.
Then again, they were indebted to the brilliance of goalkeeper Danny Gay, particularly during sustained Billericay pressure in the second half, with the shot-stopper making some excellent saves.
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Most of the talking points came in the second half, which Billericay started very well.
Gay had already saved well from O’Hara’s 25-yard free-kick and substitute Billy Bricknell’s fierce effort before the Essex side took the lead in the 54th minute through £24,000 signing Jake Robinson, who prodded home from a corner Needham’s defence will be disappointed with.
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Gay was at his best to stop Oliver Sprague’s diagonal cross-cum-shot from causing too much danger shortly afterwards, while also splendidly saving from Robinson and Bricknell with flying stops.
Needham never gave up though, and their fighting spirit was epitomised when they conjured up an 74th-minute equaliser courtesy of John Sands, who latched onto Joe Whight’s through ball before finishing superbly.
Whight was then harshly sent off for a second yellow card, in the 80th minute, following a clash with Sprague, who was also booked, before Robinson capitalised on hesitant defending to make it 2-1 four minutes later.
Sands then scored an outrageous bicycle kick, via the crossbar, from Callum Harrison’s free-kick, only for the linesman to scupper his celebrations.