Sturgess nets equaliser for Needham in home draw against Hitchin
- Credit: Archant
Needham Market 1 Hitchin Town 1
Needham Market secured their first point of the season, in the Southern League Premier Central, thanks to a precise finish from Callum Sturgess on the stroke of half-time at Bloomfields tonight.
But manager Richard Wilkins will be disappointed that his side did not go on to take all three points, in their first home fixture, following the last gasp opening day defeat at Stratford Town.
The Marketmen shaded the second period, but in the end a sluggish start, and an early goal conceded, cost them dear.
Hitchin caught Needham cold, taking the lead inside two minutes and then looking the better team for much of the rest of the first half.
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The opening goal arrived after just one minute and 40 seconds. Charlie Hayford squared for an unmarked Harry Draper, who controlled before letting fly with a rasping shot from just outside the penalty area which swerved past keeper Marcus Garnham.
Needham struggled to get out of first gear, often being caught in possession and dwelling too long on the ball, and they could have conceded more goals before equalising in the 44th minute.
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Draper headed narrowly wide from Jordan Norville-Williams' free-kick in the sixth minute, and Hitchin continued to threaten with Marcus Garnham making one smart save, and defender Keiran Morphew making one vital interception.
Sturgess did have a sight of goal at the other end, in the 21st minute, but he was denied by keeper Joshua Mollison, who dived at his feet to block.
However, out of the blue, Sturgess did equalise for the Marketmen in the 44th minute, just when it looked as though they would go into the interval trailing.
Craig Parker cut inside a defender and set up Sturgess, who found the far corner of the net with a precision low shot from a very tight angle. It was a slick finish from the left wing-back.
Garnham saved from Leo Donnellan early in the second half, but otherwise Needham forced the pace. Summer signing Joe Neal volleyed narrowly over from close-in on 63 minutes, while Keiran Morphew headed wide from Sturgess' late corner.
NEEDHAM: Garnham, Dye, Sturgess, D Morphew, K Morphew, Baker, Marsden (sub L Ingram, 68), Heath, Neal, Parker (sub N Ingram, 90+1), Squire.
Meanwhile, LEISTON were hammered 5-1 away at AFC Rushden & Diamonds, one of the promotion favourites, in a Southern League Premier Central clash at Hayden Road. They also finished the match with just 10 men.
Ironically, Leiston got their noses in front, thanks to Matt Blake's opener, only to be overwhelmed by their hosts.
Byron Lawrence went close in the 13th minute as his shot bounced in front of keeper Ben Heath, who managed to divert the ball away.
However, Blake obliged to put Leiston 1-0 up in the 22nd minute. Kyle Hammond completed a good move by delivering a pinpoint cross for Blake to steer home.
Rushden & Diamonds equalised on 40 minutes, through Alex Collard, and then crucially grabbed the lead just before half-time via Tom Lorraine. Lorraine celebrated his second and the home side's third in the 59th minute, before Ben Acquaye added a fourth from long range on 68 minutes.
Ten minutes later and Leiston were reduced to 10 men when defender George Keys was sent off for bringing down Lorraine 30 yards out when the latter was bearing down on goal. The referee deemed it be a professional foul and so a red card offence.
The hosts completed the rout when Nathan Hicks turned home the fifth.
LOWESTOFT TOWN fared much better, scooping their first points of the season thanks to a 1-0 home victory over St Ives Town in front of a crowd of 436.
Jake Reed went close, just before the half-hour mark, beating the keeper with a superb header, only for the ball to strike the bar.
However, Reed did hit the target with what proved to be the only goal of the game in the 62nd minute. Jacek Zielonka's corner was only half-cleared, and although an initial header was blocked on the goal-line, Reed reacted quickly to sweep home.
Meanwhile, BRAINTREE TOWN won 3-0 away at St Albans City in National League South, thanks to goals by full debutant Adam Mills (32), Femi Akinwande (33) and Michael Clarke (89).
NEWMARKET TOWN lost their FA Cup replay 1-0 at Arlesey. Aedan Gaffney scored the winner from a penalty.