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MCGRATH WINNER SENDS MARKETMEN 5 POINTS CLEAR

Needham Market extend their league at the top of the table to five points after a hard fought win at fifth placed Leamington.


Kevin Horlock's side were boosted by the return of Ipswich Town loanees Nico Valentine and Emmanuel Okunowo, Valentine starting with Okunowo on the bench. Byron Lawrence missed out through injury, while Dylan Williams returned on the bench. Kyle Hammond also started with Jacob Lay on the bench.


The hosting Brakes went close 33 seconds in, Landers' left footed volley went wide of the bottom near corner from the left hand edge of the box.


Callum Stewart then weaved inside into the box in the fourth minute but saw his shot seemingly deflected narrowly wide for a corner. The resulting set piece then evaded a free head from a yard out at the far post.


Stewart then saw a point blank range shot blocked by Kyle Hammond at the near post, on the right hand side two minutes later, while the rebound shot from an offside position was thwarted by Garnham.


At the over end, Needham began to grow into the game as Valentine broke through down the right wing whose dangerous low squared ball across the six yard box was cleared inside 16 minutes.


Needham then went close to breaking the deadlock themselves on 22 minutes, Seth Chambers kept possession well on the left wing, following a kick forward from Marcus Garnham, the forward threaded Valentine free on the overlap whose cross narrowly evaded Ingram.


Three minutes later though, Needham were forced into an early change as Valentine was replaced with a hamstring injury with Jacob Lay coming on in his place.


Hammond then tested the keeper with a long range free-kick, but nobody in Needham Red was around to pounce on the follow up after the keeper spilt the initial effort on 28 minutes.


The Marketmen were awarded a penalty on 31 minutes after Ingram's run down the right wing saw his cross deflected to McGrath inside the box who held the ball up well before being fouled from behind. Two minutes later, Ingram stepped up but saw his spot kick towards the bottom left hand corner tipped wide by the keeper.


Hawkins was then on hand to thwart the Marketmen again on 38 minutes, Ingram teed up Tevan Allen outside the box whose low driven shot was well held by the keeper diving low to his left hand side.


After the restart, Needham arguably edged the possession and better chances. Great play from the away side saw Tommy Smith thread Seth Chambers who turned and drove through the hosts' half onto the right hand edge of the box, but the striker's shot was fired narrowly wide of the bottom far corner on 54 minutes.


At the other end, Marcus Garnham was on hand to thwart the home side three minutes later. Stewart was threaded clear on goal, but the Needham keeper rushed out to narrowly the angle, smothering the shot towards his right hand corner which looped up for Smith to smack off the line. Tyrone Barnett's shot on the rebound though was volleyed well wide.


Jacob Lay then fired a bouncing first time half volley straight at the keeper from 30-yards out, in a good quick chance for Needham on 65 minutes while Leamington quickly broke and were awarded a penalty which saw Dan Morphew booked.


Two minutes later though, MOTM Garnham was on hand to preserve his clean sheet in superb fashion, getting down smartly to his right hand side to one handed palm Stewart's spot-kick away. Barnett got to the rebound from a tight angle, whose effort was smothered brilliantly by Garnham for a corner.


The resulting left wing corner saw Ewan Williams' far post close range shot saved by Garnham then cleared off the line before Barnett shot wide from a dangerous position.

Dylan Williams replaced Seth Chambers for the Marketmen, pushing forward Jamie McGrath into a more familiar centre forward position.


Needham continued to look for the decisive goal, McGrath clipped a great ball over the top for Ingram to win and bare down on goal, the forward chipped the onrushing goalkeeper but Meredith was well placed guarding the vacant goal to head wide for a right wing corner.


Allen's set-piece saw a shot deflected behind for another corner, which saw the Marketmen find the breakthrough on 77 minutes. Allen's right wing corner fell to McGrath free at the back post six yards out to back heel into the bottom left hand corner.


Emmanuel Okunowo replaced Luke Ingram for the final 3 minutes, plus 6 minutes of added time, which Needham saw out solidly. The hosts though did force Garnham into a brilliant close range saw midway through the indicated 6 minutes, getting down smartly to save a low shot from a corner that saw the rebound seemingly deflected just over onto the roof of the net.


Needham host Stratford Town on Tuesday, looking to extend their lead at the top of the table (7:45pm).


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