Wednesday, 4 May 2011

This Little Hopper Went to Needham Market

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Tuesday 3 May 2011 at Bloomfields
Needham Market 1 Brentwood Town 3
Isthmian League D1 North Playoff Semi-Final (step 4)
Venue #397 on the lifetime list
This match in one sentence
Brentwood Town’s pace and mobility allowed them to create a two-goal cushion after the interval after the teams had exchanged first-half penalties.
So what?
Brentwood Town, fifth-placed in the league, go on to a playoff final at Wingate & Finchley.  This was Needham Market’s first season in step 4 after their promotion from the Eastern Counties league.  They will be frustrated at this loss as they had finished 18 points ahead of their opponents, in the runners-up spot.
The drama unfolds

The first phase of the game was pretty even.  Brentwood’s approach play was good but they lacked a telling final ball.  The first real “ooooh!” moment was a looping flick by Needham Market’s James Evans on 13 minutes, and a good tackle by Brentwood’s Ryan Doyle snuffed out another chance soon after.  After 18 minutes, the impressive Steve Butterworth had a flicked chance of his own after a perfectly timed run into the box.  He then ran half the length of the pitch along route 1 but unfortunately Sos Yao strayed just offside at the final moment of execution.  As the half progressed, Brentwood managed to get territorial ascendancy without really ever testing the goalkeeper.  I have a couple of first half clips to set the scene.

There was a long hold-up after a lino (sorry, I still can’t call them assistant refs) needed treatment by the physio and then Needham Market resumed their defensive duties, with a great intervention by Rhys Barber.

Needham Market’s penalty was therefore somewhat against the run of play.  Craig Parker (I think) was bundled over in the area.   I am sure he despatched the spot kick and have a pic to prove it.  1-0

The referee timed it at 40 minutes for the golden-goal tickets, I timed it at 44, and we went into six minutes of stoppage time.  This was enough for Brentwood to earn a spotkick of their own.  The ref patiently and repeatedly explained to Pip Boyland that his tackle on Yao had been “man and ball”.

Here’s the penalty, taken by Ryan Doyle.

1-1  at half-time

Brentwood made a great start to the second half and forced a good early save from Danny Gay.  Five minutes after the restart, this happened …

Ryan Edgar the scorer.  1-2

The game moved into an open and end-to-end phase.  Needham Market clearly needed a goal but Brentwood’s pace was potent for the counter-attack.  After 62 minutes, Andy Hall threw the ball out quickly to Edgar.  Leon Fisher screamed for it, and got it, “down the line” on the left.  He outpaced the defender and squared it on to the proverbial plate for Yao, who rolled it in.  1-3  This next clip is from this part of the game.

Thereafter, a sharp catch by Hall prevented a headed own-goal, and Needham Market watched the ball bounce back to safety off a post in the 72nd minute.  The final clips are from the closing minutes, played mostly in the Brentwood half, which show some of the home side’s attempts to get on the scoresheet, including the traditional “send the keeper upfield” ploy.  It was not their night.

Alternative activity of equal excitement for tourists in Needham Market
Evidence (a crowd of 344) would suggest that the locals think that Barcelona v Real Madrid in the semi-final of some competition for overpaid prima donnas is a better bet.  I don’t agree.  It’s non-league every time for me – unless WBA ever “do a Leeds” and throw the entire GDP of the Black Country at player wages, and even then I’m still not sure.
A snippet from the programme
From the club secretary:
“When this season commenced … we entered the league somewhat like “ships sailing uncharted waters”, as we didn’t really know what to expect from the teams in the division.  However, we always knew that matches would be difficult, physical and tight affairs and how this has proved to be correct.  If you had said at the start of the season we would have cemented a place in one of the play-off positions and had been battling for the league title for the majority of the season I think we would have settled for that, especially as this is our first taste of step 4 football.”
What I learned today
The Kevin Horlock wearing the #3 shirt for Needham Market is indeed the Northern Ireland international who played for Swindon Town, Manchester City, West Ham and Ipswich.  He is assistant manager at the club.  Ian Collard (WBA and Ipswich) will be one of the ex-pro footballers at a local golf day soon in aid of the club, alongside Mick Mills and Bryan Hamilton.
What Next?
Possibly a local step 7 cup final on Wednesday evening for venue #398 – watch this space!

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