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Needham Market return to the top of the table following a clinical 4-0 win in their first home game of 2024, against Kettering Town, at Bloomfields.

Kevin Horlock's side made 2 changes from New Year's Day, with Callum Page and Jamie McGrath starting ahead of Dylan Williams and Seth Chambers, both of whom started on the bench. Reece Harris was unavailable through injury, with new signing Emmanuel Okunowo, on loan from Ipswich Town, on the bench.

The Marketmen kicked off the new year, at home, in style, Callum Page though dragged his shot wide after 4 minutes.

A great ball over the top released the forward through on goal, onto the right-hand edge of the box, albeit his shot was dragged narrowly wide of the bottom far corner.

While Jacob Lay couldn't quite control a neat flick on, into the box from Jamie McGrath, after a good run from Callum Page on 11 minutes, Lay's exquisite left wing cross in across the danger area almost picked out Jake Due at the far post, though the keeper was there to gather three minutes later.

Andrade however curled a free kick just over the top left-hand corner after 17 minutes, followed by Tommy Smith at the other end threading Lay through onto the left-hand edge of the box but for his effort to go through tamely straight to the goalkeeper on 21 minutes.

Dan Morphew then crashed a thunderous header onto the crossbar off a left wing corner before Kettering broke up the other end and rattled the post on 23 minutes.

The visitors then shot just wide of the bottom corner 5 minutes later, which was closely followed by a great chance for Needham on 29 minutes. Tommy Smith was again fed onto the left-hand byline before hanging an audacious cross to the far post, finding Tevan Allen unmarked from close range although his first time volley went wide of the bottom corner.

Needham meanwhile broke the deadlock on 44 minutes, great build up play between Tommy Smith and Jacob Lay on the left wing saw the left-back's audacious cross into the six yard box hooked home smartly by Luke Ingram arriving at the near post.

Needham started the second half in similar fashion, after a left wing cross was tipped away by the keeper, Tevan Allen was first to the loose ball with time and space to shoot, albeit his effort was deflected just wide of the bottom right-hand corner three minutes after the restart.

Kyle Hammond then tried his luck at goal for the Marketmen on 49 minutes, as the midfielder's low ferocious strike was well held by the diving keeper, while Tevan Allen could only divert a dangerous cross into the box wide moments later.

Needham continued to create the majority of the chances, in search of a second goal, with Jacob Lay weaving through dangerously onto the left-hand side of the box, but could only curl his shot narrowly over the top far corner on 53 minutes.

Jamie McGrath then saw a powerful header from a brilliant left wing cross shovelled over by the goalkeeper 5 minutes later, with the striker doubling his side's lead on the hour mark.

The well worked team move saw Smith's cutback, after a clever run to the left wing byline find Jacob Lay - unmarked from 10-yards out - who teed it up for McGrath to guide home from point blank range at the left-hand post.

Smith then went for goal himself 4 minutes later, but shot narrowly wide of the bottom far, right-hand, corner before Luke Ingram broke onto a stray pass midway through the Poppies' half on the right wing, enroute to racing through inside onto the box, but thundered his shot wide off the outside of the top near post on 68 minutes.

Substitute, on-loan from Ipswich Town, Nico Valentine couldn't quite latch onto a brilliant left wing cross a yard out at the far post on 72 minutes, while fellow substitute Dylan Williams forced a good save from the keeper with a free kick on 77 minutes.

The midfielder's free-kick, inside the 'D' was curled smartly over the wall, dipping towards the bottom right-hand corner but for the keeper to dive across and beat the ball away.

Valentine then went close to tripling his side's lead on 79 minutes, the recent loan signing found space to shoot from inside the box but for a deflection, enabling the diving keeper to smother it away.

The Town winger though wouldn't be denied just seconds later, Valentine exploited space to shoot from distance, rifling a rocket into the bottom corner, for his first Needham goal and second ever senior goal, 3-0 Needham.

Three minutes later, Jamie McGrath rounded off the scoring with a stunning solo goal, also bringing up his brace. The striker drove into space, weaving into the box before smashing home past the goalkeeper.

Needham almost hit five on 92 minutes, Jacob Lay raced through smartly onto the left-hand byline though Seth Chambers' close range low shot was well smothered by the goalkeeper.

Needham host fourth placed Redditch United on Tuesday (7:45pm).


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