NEEDHAM Market had to fend off a Felixstowe & Walton United fightback before booking their place in the semi-finals of this season’s Omni Freight Services Suffolk Premier Cup.
The holders established a two-goal lead inside the opening half hour of Tuesday’s quarter-final tie at Bloomfields in front of 262 spectators.
Gareth Heath’s tenth minute free-kick and a Dan Morphew penalty after Ethan Clarke fouled Luke Ingram appeared to put the home side on course for the last four.
Joe Francis then poked home to reduce the deficit in the 33rd minute and a minute later Kye Ruel burst clear to level the tie.
After a flurry of second-half substitutions – the visitors lost both Francis and Clarke before the hour mark to injuries – Heath turned home at the near post in the 81st minute to settle the outcome.
Needham Market Manager Richard Wilkins said: “Before the game we had everything to lose with people expecting us to go through, but people were interested to see how Felixstowe would get on against us.
“They are a very good offensive team, but we felt we could hurt them with our attacking threat, even though we left out John Sands and Jack Simmons.
“After we went 2-0 up the next goal was always going to be important, and we gave it to them and then they equalised straightaway.
“In the second half we were more compact and we controlled the game better than we did in the first half and we created more opportunities to score.
“Luke Ingram hit the bar and we could have done better with opportunities when we were two-on-one but didn’t make the game safe.
“There was always the chance that they would have a chance towards the end and Danny Gay had to tip a shot over the bar.”
Needham join fellow Bostik League Premier Division side Leiston, Bury Town and Kirkley & Pakefield in the semi-final draw which will be announced a week on Saturday
Wilkins quipped: “This is a good competition, and one we want to do well in as the holders – no doubt we will draw Leiston in the semi-final!”
Kirkley & Pakefield pulled off a stunning comeback from 2-0 down to win 5-2 at The New Croft against Haverhill Rovers.
Goals from Luke Haines and Rafal Wozniak appeared to put the home team in command, but Kirkley drew level by the break and scored three unanswered goals in the second period.
Liam Harvey-Cooper (2), Kyle Baker, Lee Will and Jack Herbert were on target for the visitors, who will be the only Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side in the final four.
Bury Town won Tuesday night’s other quarter-final 3-1 at Brantham Athletic, who had joint-manager Michael Brothers sent off, before Cemal Ramadan put Bury ahead from the penalty spot.
Goals by Ollie Dunlop and Bradley Barber put Bury into a 3-0 lead at the break, and although Ed Nobbs pulled one back from a penalty, the Bostik North side booked their place in the semi-finals.
Felixstowe & Walton United’s Joe Francis (fourth left, blue & white striped shirt) is pictured above scoring his side’s first goal at Needham Market. Photograph courtesy of Stan Baston
Omni Freight Services Suffolk Premier Cup Quarter-Finals: Brantham Athletic 1 Bury Town 3, Haverhill Rovers 2 Kirkley & Pakefield 5, Needham Market 3 Felixstowe & Walton Utd 2.