Needham Market rue disallowed goal in draw with Grays Athletic
Needham Market recorded their second successive goalless draw as Mark Morsley’s men were held by 10th-placed Grays Athletic at Bloomfields, on Tuesday.
The draw edged them ever so slightly further away from danger at the bottom of the Ryman Premier Division table, but the Marketmen still remain too close for comfort at the wrong end of the division.
It could have been different had Ollie Mann’s effort, midway through the second half, been allowed to stand, the striker being penalised for offside, three yards out, after he followed up a Michael Brothers shot that was saved by Tom Hadler.
The impressive Brothers also went close in both halves, while left-back Joe Whight struck the crossbar with a well-placed, first-half free kick.
While Needham, who drew 0-0 at Lewes at the weekend, will feel unfortunate not to have taken three points after an encouraging second half display, their opponents could also feel slightly hard done by.
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The Essex visitors dominated for large parts of the first half, with towering forward Dumebi Dumaka and his strike partner, Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson, linking up well.
The former, who has been on trial at West Ham and has attracted scouts from Ipswich Town, crashed a vicious 30-yard effort against the post as early as the fifth minute, after engineering space for himself on the edge of the box.
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That came after a bright start from Needham, for whom Mann had a decent effort palmed away by the goalkeeper.
However, Dumaka’s effort lifted Grays and they went on to have the better of the first half, playing some slick, dynamic football on a difficult pitch that was full of bare patches, bumps and bobbles.
As for Needham, the surface wasn’t conducive to their style of football and as a result, they often had to launch long balls forward, which rarely stuck.
That meant Grays had plenty of possession and too often they carved through the hosts’ defence, Needham goalkeeper Danny Gay twice making solid stops from the dangerous Fortnam-Tomlinson.
The striker looked sharp, but made a mess of a golden opportunity midway through the first half when, after latching onto a flick from Dumaka, he launched an effort high over the bar, when composure was needed.
Then, in the 33rd minute, came Needham’s best effort of the half, Whight hitting the bar from 25 yards after Luke Ingram was brought down outside the area,
Dumaka then flashed a shot wide at the other end as the visitors continued to look threatening, but Needham had a late first half rally that saw goalkeeper Hadler save at the feet of Brothers after Mann’s initial effort had been spilt.
The second half was a much more open affair, with Needham getting ball on the floor more and Brothers looking particularly dangerous.
His good link-up play with youngster Jake Dye resulted in Mann’s offside effort and the experienced forward was proving a good outlet on the break.
Ingram also went close for Market with a deflected effort, but the longer the game went on, the more the three points slipped from the home side’s grasp.
With time not on their side, Needham had to concentrate to ensure they didn’t go away empty-handed and Gay, as he had been all evening, was solid when called upon to collect some late crosses into the six-yard box.
Needham were also dogged in midfield with Ollie Fenn immaculate in front of the back four, while at right-back, Dye further enhanced his reputation following an impressive display on Saturday.
Two clean sheets suggest Needham are getting their act together at the back, but they now need to be more clinical going forwards.
Leiston lost 4-1 at Billericay in the Ryman Premier and, in doing so, suffered a fourth straight defeat on the road.
Jack Ainsley scored the Blues’ only goal with the visitors trailing 3-0. They have now conceded 14 goals in their last four away games.