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Needham Market continue their hunt for a third consecutive - and what would be a fifth overall - Endeavour Automotive Suffolk Premier Cup triumph after a Luke Ingram brace and Luke Brown strike booked the Southern League Central Premier Division side's spot in the semi-finals, with a 3-1 win over lower league Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties Premier Division side Long Melford at Bloomfields.

Kevin Horlock named a strong side for the clash with the side two leagues below the Marketmen, making just one change from Saturday's 1-0 league win at league leaders Tamworth, Ross Crane returned from injury in place of the rested Christian Frimpong. Seth Chambers and Fin Shorten returned to the bench, joining Hugh Cullum, while Callum Page made up the substitutes bench on his return to the club.

Needham had a decent chance though in the fifth minute, Luke Ingram latched onto a great ball over the top before cutting the ball back to Like Brown in acres of space from 10-yards out whose shot skewed wide of the right-hand corner. 

Four minutes later, the ball fell perfectly for Tom Fitzgerald to hit on the volley, in acres of space on the right-hand edge of the box, though the midfielder's effort went narrowly over the crossbar. 

At the other end, Keiran Morphew was adjudged to have brought down a Long Melford player inside the penalty area in the eleventh minute, up-stepped ex-Marketman Ryan Gibbs, who just beat Marcus Garnham for placement, dispatching from the spot into the bottom left-hand corner, 1-0 Long Melford.

In response, Dylan Williams' right wing corner forced Long Melford goalkeeper Max Boulter to come off his line and punch away the dangerously swinging set-piece on 15 minutes, while Jake Dye's right wing throw in saw Williams spin past a defender smartly to break through into the box, only to blast his shot over the crossbar seven minutes later. 

Luke Brown then exploited space to test Boulter with a well hit strike in the 33rd minute, though the Needham striker's powerful strike on the turn from 12-yards out was well held by the 'keeper down low to his right-hand side. 

Seven minutes later however, Needham were awarded a penalty. Dan Morphew threaded Ross Crane through with an audacious through-ball before the winger was fouled by the goalkeeper on the left-hand byline, with the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Up-stepped Luke Ingram, to cooly smash home ruthlessly from the spot into the right-hand middle corner, 1-1. 

Arguably the equaliser was no less than the Marketmen deserved, having arguably edged the possession and had most of the better chances against a battling performance from the visitors.

Luke Brown almost gave the Marketmen the lead just before half-time though, after being laid off by Williams, following a free-kick 18-yards out from goal on the left-hand side, the striker saw his shot Lasered towards the top right-hand corner beaten away well by the shot-stopper, as far as Ross Crane whose free header went just wide of the right-hand corner on 43 minutes. 

The second half again saw the Marketmen have the better chances against a resilient Long Melford defence, albeit the holders did take the lead shortly after the interval. 

Prior to that, Patrick Brothers saw a fierce 3p-ysrd shot blocked just 34 seconds after the restart, while Luke Brown was threaded through brilliantly down the right-hand side of the box before seeing his brilliant ball squared across the box just evade Jacob Lay running in from close range, only for Williams to awkwardly hook the rebound over the bar on 47 minutes.

Brown, who scored the winning goal on Saturday, gave Needham the lead with a stunning low strike two minutes later. The forward was threaded through down the left-hand side before again latching onto the ball on the bounce on the near side of the box and smashing home into the bottom far corner, 2-1 Needham. 

Luke Ingram meanwhile went close to picking up a brace in the 51st minute, the forward latched onto a great low ball through the defence down the right-hand side before breaking into the box and firing a shot wide of the bottom far corner.

Six minutes later, Williams' audacious 30-yard cross into the box found Keiran Morphew leap highest in acres of space, albeit the Needham skipper looped his header just over the top far right hand corner.

Needham again went close to extending theiresd on 59 minutes, Ingram broke through down the right-hand side following another brilliant low through-ball, only to see his clever ball squared across on a plate for the arriving Lay to just evade the winger at the back post. 

Boulter was then on hand to fly off his line and punch away a smart right wing Needham cross on 64 minutes, while substitute Callum Page forced a great save out of Boulter in the 83rd minute. The winger's ferocious low strike, from 30-yards out on the left-hand side, required the Long Melford keeper to be alert and awkwardly shovel the shot behind his far post for a Needham corner. 

Luke Ingram meanwhile glanced a good free header narrowly wide of the bottom far corner from a sumptuous Williams left wing corner on 85 minutes, while Ingram picked up his tenth goal in as many games, and fifteenth for the season to seal the Marketmen's spot in the semi-finals a minute later.

The forward notched his fifth goal in the competition in the process, following a hat-trick against Felixstowe in the second round, leaping like a salmon to bullet head home a sumptuous left wing Callum Page cross, that hung up in the air beautifully for the striker to nod home powerfully into the top near corner off the underside of the crossbar, 3-1 Needham. 

Brown tried his luck at a brace of his own in the first minute of stoppage time, but saw his 30-yard ferocious shot from in space on the right-hand side, just smothered behind the near post by Boulter. 

Ingram meanwhile had the last chance of the night three minutes later, the ball fell to the forward on space 25-yards out from goal on the left-hand side, whose volley smashed narrowly wide of the bottom far corner.

In the end, the Marketmen's higher league quality made the difference, as Horlock's side join Bury Town and Stowmarket Town in the semi-final draw on Thursday night - while the Marketmen will look to make it four straight wins in all competitions when they host Nuneaton Borough in the league on Saturday (3pm).


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