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Needham Market Under-18s reduce the gap to leaders Brantham Athletic to a point following a 4-3 victory over Whitton United.

While Needham were the better team for much of the first half, it was the home side who arguably had the better of the second half.

The young Marketmen though broke the deadlock with the first noteable chance in the fourth minute. Luca Braddon broke through onto the right wing before whipping a brilliant low ball back across the penalty spot, where Eddie Barker's far post shot was palmed away by the hosts'goalkeeper, but only as far as Ed Barker who was on hand, in space, to tap home into the bottom right-hand corner from close range, 1-0 Needham.

Chances continued to fall to the visitors, first a great long ball over the top released goalscorer Ed Barker one on one with the onrushing goalkeeper, although his lobbed shot went just wide of the vacant top right hand corner after 8 minutes.

Three minutes later, Eddie Barker's audacious 35-yard free-kick picked out Travis Buxton arriving in space at the far post whose close range effort went agonisingly just wide of the top right-hand corner.

A good save from goalkeeper Firman denied Ed Barker, and Needham, a second goal on 14 minutes. A neat flicked defence splitting pass from Gayle threaded the latter through driving down the middle, one on one with the 'keeper, but couldn't beat the committed advancing keeper from close range, who dived down to his right-hand side to smother and hold onto the shot.

The Needham forward though did double his own and his team's tally for the evening on 23 minutes, a low left wing cross found Flynn Crosthwaite in space on the far side of the box, whose low fierce effort was controlled well by Ed Barker who then smashed home into the bottom near corner, from six yards out, proving too powerful for the goalkeeper to keep out, 2-0 Needham.

Five minutes later, a goal-line clearance thwarted the away side from adding a third goal, Eddie Barker's cleverly taken left wing corner was met by a towering far post header, from point blank range, from Ed Barker which was beaten away by Firman, while Dimitri Gayle's effort from a yard out was smacked off the line.

Gayle meanwhile smashed a left wing cross-shot just wide of the bottom far corner on 29 minutes, before a combination of Lawrence Robinson and the crossbar denied the home side a goal back three minutes later. The hosts found space on the left-hand side of the box to fire a great low shot across goal, which Needham 'keeper, and Man Of The Match, Robinson dived across well to his left hand side to beat it away, but only as far as a Whitton forward free in acres of space whose rebound shot hit the top of the crossbar and back into play.

In response, Needham tripled their lead - again through Ed Barker on 35 minutes. The forward completed his unanswered hat-trick after latching onto a brilliant defence splitting pass to drive through one on one. The forward then drew the keeper out before rounding him while breaking into the box and slotting home into the vacant bottom left-hand corner, 3-0 Needham.

Four minutes later, an other sumptuous right wing Eddie Barker corner found Ben Smith unmarked at the far post whose towering close range header went agonisingly just wide of the top left-hand corner, while another goal-line clearance denied the young Reds on 41 minutes.

After Gayle was released through one on one by a great defence splitting pass, the forward smartly rounded the goalkeeper before shooting at the open net but for Flynn Hall to track back well and clear the ball away. Gayle then got to the rebound before finding Eddie Barker just inside the box, whose shot was deflected narrowly wide of the bottom right-hand corner off a defender.

The home side however pulled a goal back on 44 minutes, Adam Wadey was found in space to bullet head home a right wing cross into the bottom near corner from close range, while the goalscorer then drove through down the left-hand side only to blaze a close range shot over in the second minute of first half stoppage time.

Needham though had the final chance of the first half a minute later, substitute Fabio Da Souza tried his luck with a fierce 35-yard shot but saw his effort towards the bottom right-hand corner deflected as Firman took a comfortable catch.

After the restart, some inspired goalkeeping from Lawrence Robinson was instrumental in the away side preserving their advantage early after the restart.

The goalkeeper was alert just two minutes after play got back underway to save a 30-yard fierce strike well before reacting well a minute later to beat away Greaves' header from 4-yards out following Firman's free-kick on 48 minutes.

Whitton meanwhile did reduce the deficit to 2-3 a minute later as a right wing corner was headed home by Cates from 10-yards out.

Needham on the other hand found Eddie Barker in space on the left-hand side of the box whose low shot towards the far corner was beaten away well by the goalkeeper after 51 minutes.

Five minutes later, Robinson denied Whitton from levelling proceedings with another fine save, this time parrying a 35-yard fierce strike from the left-hand side behind his far post for a corner.

The Needham shot-stopper was then on hand to hold onto a fierce 30-yard shot from the left-hand side on 59 minutes, while Greaves' 8-yard karate kick effort, from the right-hand side a minute later, went narrowly wide of the bottom far corner.

Greaves then broke through on goal down the right-hand side of the box on 61 minutes only to see his shot smashed  towards goal smothered behind well by the diving Robinson for a corner.

The resulting right wing dangerous corner meanwhile saw a header deflected just wide for another corner, before a brilliant right wing Needham corner was bullet headed just wide of the bottom right-hand corner by Ben Smith on 70 minutes.

While Robinson denied the home side once again two minutes later, the young Marketmen added a crucial fourth goal on 74 minutes. Dimitri Gayle drove through brilliantly onto the right-hand byline before smashing a great low ball across the face of goal, finding Luca Braddon who tapped home from point blank range, 4-2 Needham.

Goalscorer Braddon then found space down the left-hand side, only to smash a half-volley over from close range six minutes later.

Whitton though reduced the visitors' lead back to one goal on 83 minutes as Quinton's smart right wing corner curled directly into the top far corner, before another right wing Whitton corner was swung to a green shirt leaping highest at the far post whose good downward header was held brilliantly by Robinson on 89 minutes.

At the other end, Lucas Vance was found in space on the left-hand side of the box but could only volley over the bar  a minute later.

Robinson though continued to stand firm, making two world class saves a minute apart in stoppage time to rubber stamp three points for his side. First, Greaves broke through one one before firing a great strike towards Robinson's bottom left-hand corner, which the goalkeeper reacted instinctively to stick out a foot and turn it behind for a corner on 90+1 minutes.

The resulting corner meanwhile saw a far post header look destined to nestle into the top left-hand corner until Robinson leapt up well to tip it behind.

The young Reds conclude their league campaign away at Woodbridge Town next Thursday (11th May, 7:45pm), ahead of the Suffolk U18 Midweek Cup Final against AFC Sudbury at Colchester United the following Wednesday (17th, 7:30pm).


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