Ryman Div One North
Needham Market 2 v 1 Grays Athletic
GRAYS were undone by goal machine Sam Newson with a goal in each half against a hard working Blues team.
Before Grays could settle into their game plan Needham started the quickest when Duane Wright set Danny Thrower clear only for his shot to go wide but within minutes the Blues settled and started to control the half.
Danny Bunce and Joao Carlos used their pace to take the ball wide and a floated cross by Bunce was hit wide by Craig Pope and a shot by Harry Agombar was charged down. A cross from Carlos dropped into the box for Andy Plummer to hesitate on the ball almost letting in Jared Small. The Blues were on top not allowing Needham time to clear their lines.
A Lee Flynn free-kick was blocked and a series of corners were desperately cleared by the under-pressure home defence. Bunce switched the ball to Carlos and a clever chip-shot come cross was tipped over the bar by Plummer. Junior Baker, back to his best, cleared a run by Thrower and then picked up the loose ball to run forward to release Kenny Beaney but his miss hit shot went high over the bar as the Blues spurned chance after chance. Needham almost broke through when Thrower released Wright but a foul on Andy Hall halted the attack.
Agombar hit a pass in for Grant Cooper to head through to Baker but his header went just over the bar, Flynn, Beaney and Agombar all had shots cleared as the half wore on. With minutes to go the home side were awarded a free-kick and quick thinking by Thrower saw the ball arrive at the feet of Sam Newson for him to hit the ball wide of Hall to open the scoring against the run of play to stun the visitors. A last shot by Carlos saw Plummer hold the ball as the half ended.
An even second half started with a run by Wright to cross to Dan Bloomfield but his errant header went wide and Newson looked very lively as he ran into space to be closed down by Cooper and it was Cooper who gave the Blues their first attack when he released Agombar to pass out to Bunce, his cross was headed out under pressure from Sweeney. A corner from Agombar was headed wide by Craig Pope.
A free kick by Wright saw Thrower run in but his header went harmlessly wide. Angelo Harrop found Newson in space but Baker cleared the ball away as Needham pushed forward. Grays knew they had to take the game the Marketeers if they were to get anything from the game and brought on Anthony Ryan for Small on the hour and moved forward.
An Agombar free kick was cleared another was headed wide by Baker but it was to be their undoing when a long clearance from pip Boyland found Newson in the middle and his turn and run took him past Cooper, Pope and Baker to hit a perfect shot past Hall to double the lead with twenty minutes to go. David Cowley came on for Bunce as Grays chased the game and five minutes later Carlos picked up the ball to run and cross for Ryan to tap the ball home to half the deficit.
As the game opened up, Louis Dennis came on for Sweeney with Grays still pushing, but a corner from Harrop was headed wide by Newson as gaps appeared in both defences. Cowley crossed for a Carlos run but his shot was held by Plummer. Carlos hit the ball to Dennis but his twisting run was cut out by Rhys Barber. With time running out Baker got onto a Beaney cross only to see the ball hit the cross bar to deny the defender.
A last minute run by Thrower put Jose Espinoza clear but his soft shot rolled just wide of Hall’s goal to end the game and put Needham three points clear at the top.
Grays Athletic:- Andy Hall, Lee Flynn, Grant Cooper, Junior Baker, Craig Pope, Danny Bunce (David Cowley 72), Harry Agombar, Kenny Beaney, Joao Carlos, Joe Sweeney (Louis Dennis 78), Jared Small (Anthony Ryan 60)