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The Journey is over, but it’s been a hell of a ride for Needham Market in this year’s FA Cup as they finally succumbed to tier three side West Bromwich Albion 3-0 only after taking them deep into extra time.

It was the club’s first venture into the second round and faced a tough assignment on the road to a team two leagues above,but it took 105 minutes for Mariam Mahmood to break their great resistance before Simran Jhamat and Mahood added gloss to what was not a 3-0 game.

The pattern was set early on with Needham happy to let West Brom dominate, while having a presence on the break with Lina Nagib looking threatening with an early break and shot wide and Amber Cantwell hitting the target just outside the box.

But it was the back five of Evie McKane in goal, Nicole Pannifer, Lexi Pryke, Sheryce Slater and Ellie Rossiter that stood firm under constant pressure for 105 minutes, valiantly keeping the home side at bay.

It wasn’t just the defence though with the work ratethroughout the team led from the front by Molly Hall and a notable mention to Leilah Gooding, who marked one of West Brom’s largest threats out of the game.

And all that work rate contributed to limiting the home side to very little with McKane comfortable in goal and lots of long-range efforts that failed to hit the target.

There were some close moments with Mamhood dragging wide when she got free of Needham’s exemplary defence and a late scramble in the second half that saw a ball cleared off the line.

Development player Charlotte Sayer was the first change to add more energy and pace up top, which she did brilliantly winning a free kick and earning the defender a yellow as she threatened to break clear.

And after 10 gruelling minutes of stoppage time the game went to extra time.

Inevitably fatigue was taking hold, and it was time for McKane to step up with two massive saves to keep the scores level – one magnificent fingertip wide and then a point-blankpush over the bar from a close-range header.

But cruelly stoppage time was not our friend as Mahmood got a flicker of space and took it – the first time she got anything from the Needham defence – curling a shot over McKane and into the far corner.

Chasing the game Needham threw caution to the wind – another development player Keira Topple was brought on to add more youthful exuberance in the hunt for an equaliser.

But inevitably adding more attacking threats led to more gaps and it allowed Jhamat to have the most space any Albion player had in the box all game to pick her spot and kill the game.

They then won a penalty and Mahmood added her second although McKane almost made a great stop.

It finished 3-0 and Needham are out of the cup but there is nothing but positives to take from a performance that belittles our status as a tier five side and shows the levels this team can achieve going forward.  



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