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Needham Market go 3 points clear at the Southern League Premier Central summit at Christmas following a 3-0 win at Alvechurch.

The Marketmen named an unchanged side from last week's goalless draw at home to Coalville.

Alvechurch though had an early free kick headed comfortably wide by a free header on 3 minutes, while the Marketmen went close to opening the scoring 2 minutes later. A quick right wing low corner from Dylan Williams saw the midfielder thread Kyle Hammond free inside the box, whose audacious first time cross found Seth Chambers free from 7-yards out, albeit his diving header went just wide of the near post.

Jacob Lay then whipped a sumptuous left wing cross into the corridor of uncertainty, but saw it evade everyone in Needham red as it went narrowly wide of the bottom far corner on 11 minutes.

Alvechurch then saw a shot in space, from the left-hand edge of the box, fired low but straight at Marcus Garnham for a comfortable catch.

A good save from the Church keeper though thwarted Needham from going in front on 15 minutes, a quick right wing smart cross from Dylan Williams found Seth Chambers free in the centre who took a touch before seeing his ferocious half volleyed effort beaten over by the Keeper for a corner, which Keiran Morphew headed wide.

At the other end, a minute later, great defending a minute later denied the home side a shot at goal, as Tommy Smith tracked back superbly to slide in.

Kyle Hammond meanwhile looked to catch the keeper off his line following a free kick from the halfway line, but his shot went over the crossbar on 20 minutes, before a shot in space, on the left-hand edge of the box, was well held by Garnham at head height four minutes later at the other end.

Tommy Smith then bravely blocked a shot inside the box on the half-hour mark, before a peach of a left wing cross from Jacob Lay was hung up perfectly for Dye at the far post to head home, but for a defender to get the crucial touch to divert it behind the far post for a corner.

However, Needham broke the deadlock from the resulting corner on 35 minutes, Dylan Williams' audacious right wing picked out Seth Chambers free from close range who glanced home his header into the near corner, 1-0 Needham.

Needham went close again five minutes later, after a great cross just evaded Keiran Morphew, Jacob Lay saw two volleys in quick succession blocked well by the same defender.

Jacob Lay then saw a left wing cross, after some neat footwork, cleared only as far as Jake Dye on the edge of the box whose shot was deflected behind for a corner on 43 minutes.

Ten minutes after the restart, Needham doubled their lead in clinical fashion, Tommy Smith was slipped through smartly onto the left wing overlap whose great low cross found the unmarked Luke Ingram, who finished smartly - despite a touch off the keeper - into the bottom right-hand corner from close range, 2-0 Needham.

Ingram then curled a low shot, from the left-hand edge of the box, just wide of the bottom far corner on 72 minutes as Needham cemented their authority on the game.

Horlock's side then wrapped up the points in their final game of 2023 with a well worked goal on 79 minutes. Seth Chambers picked up his second goal of the afternoon in style, after great buildup play saw Jake Dye thread Luke Ingram racing through past the defence down the right wing into acres of space, the forward then cut the ball back smartly to MOTM Chambers who spun his defender before finishing cooly into the bottom right-hand corner, 3-0 Needham.

The full bench of Callum Page, Reece Harris and Ipswich town loanee Nico Valentine then all came on in place of Jamie McGrath, Jacob Lay and Luke Ingram, before Chambers nearly completed his hat-trick on 89 minutes.

The last chance of the afternoon saw the forward fed through one on one onto the right-hand side of the box whose fierce strike towards the far corner cannoned agonisingly over off the top of the crossbar. Needham head to AFC Sudbury on New Year's Day.


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