Premier Cup close-up Portman Road

Holders come from behind to progress

HOLDERS Needham Market are through to the last eight of the Suffolk Premier Cup.

CALLUM Page came off the bench to add ‘that little bit of a spark that we needed’ according to manager Kevin Horlock as Needham Market reached the quarter-finals of this season’s Endeavour Automotive Suffolk Premier Cup.

The holders had to come from behind twice to defeat hosts Long Melford 3-2 in Wednesday’s second-round tie at The Skyline Networks Stadium.

Their win sets up a last-eight meeting with Stowmarket Town, who the Marketmen defeated 6-5 on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw in last season's final at Bury Town FC.

Harry Whiting-Noakes converted a low right-wing cross to put the home team in front after ten minutes, but Dan Morphew headed home a Tevan Allen corner to equalise in the 22nd minute.

Long Melford, who play two levels lower than Needham, restored their advantage after 35 minutes through a Ryan Gibbs lob, before Seth Chambers volleyed home from Allen’s corner six minutes later.

Substitute Page had already hit a post before netting the winner in the 76th minute, arriving at the far post to score from Ollie Fraser’s cross.

Horlock told the Needham Market X feed: “It was about getting through. It was always going to be difficult coming here, obviously the pitch was heavy, and the way they set up I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before really, I think it was a goalkeeper, nine behind the ball and one up top, and it's difficult to break down at times.

“There's a lot of bodies, but we were resolute, we kept going, we got the winner in the end, so I’m pleased, albeit bored during the game – and it’s not one I’ll watch back.

“I expected to come here and win, obviously I would’ve liked it to have been by a bigger score margin, but when people sit behind the ball like that it’s difficult at times and if you want to get through, and we have, obviously it was a little bit, not nervy but, touch and go at times.”

Horlock said the most pleasing aspect of Wednesdays win was to see Byron Lawrence play his first 45 minutes for the first team since breaking his fibula, fracturing his tibia and dislocating his ankle against Peterborough Sports at Bloomfields almost two years ago to the day.

The Needham boss, who celebrated his 51st birthday on Wednesday, said his decision to introduce Page paid dividends.

“They weren't really moving out of the holes they were sat in, they weren't really marking, they were marking spaces, just strung along the edge of their box, so Pagey’s someone that can shift the ball and go past people and find little pockets, so that’s the reason we’ve put him on there and he’s popped up, scored the winner.

“He added that little bit of a spark that we needed, because like I said it is very difficult to break teams down when they sit nine on the edge of the box,” said Horlock.

Leiston are the only side already through to this season’s semi-finals after defeating Lowestoft Town 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in their last-eight meeting.

Ipswich Wanderers face Ipswich Town Under-18s next Tuesday at Humber Doucy Lane and Felixstowe & Walton United host Hadleigh United at the AGL Arena the following evening, both kick-offs 7.45pm.

A date will be confirmed for the tie between Needham Market and Stowmarket Town in due course.

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