Town Exit Suffolk Premier Cup at Needham
Tuesday, 17th Sep 2019 22:54 by James Ager
A Town XI bowed out of the first round of the Turners Hyundai Suffolk FA Premier Cup on Tuesday evening when they were beaten 3-0 at Needham Market. Gareth Heath gave the Bet Victor Southern Central League side a half-time lead before strikes from Joe Neal and Callum Sturgess in the second half sealed the Blues' fate.
U18s coach Adem Atay fielded a strong side with Tommy Hughes (below), who was playing his first game since breaking his leg in the U23s match against Sheffield Wednesday back in March, named captain and Kai Brown and Lounes Foudil also included.
Ryley Scott, who scored for the U23s in their 3-1 defeat at Burnley on Monday afternoon, started in a central midfield role.
Former Town scholar Russell Short was on the Needham bench alongside Keiran Morphew, who spent time on trial with the Blues in March 2016, while experienced non-league keeper Marcus Garnham started for the hosts and played a few games in goal for the Town reserve side during the 2005/06 season.
Needham had the first shot on goal after five minutes when Heath's right-sided corner was turned towards goal by Craig Parker, but the ball was blocked in a crowded six-yard box and cleared by the Blues defence.
A couple of minutes later some good interplay between Foudil and Alfie Cutbush in the Needham box led to the Frenchman striking a fierce shot from close range, which Garnham did well to keep out at his near post.
Needham wideman Luke Ingram latched onto a flick from Parker but dragged his low left-foot shot wide of the far post, shortly before Town keeper Jake Alley was drawn out of his area by Neal who then teed up Joe Marsden, but Cutbush got back to block the goalbound effort.
On 25, the Town number eight played a fine ball out to Brown on the right side of the box and the former Grays youngster cut inside and hit a left-foot shot which Garnham parried away. Foudil gathered the loose ball and fired another shot on goal, which the home keeper was equal to.
Just two minutes later though, the hosts took the lead. Parker's initial close-range effort was well blocked by Alley but Ingram was quickest to react and played the loose ball across the six-yard box to allow Heath to finish with ease.
With five minutes of the first half left, Joe Marsden struck a 25-yard effort which was comfortably gathered by Alley, moments before Foudil curled an effort just over the bar from the edge of the box at the other end after a good ball back from Hughes.
Striker Lewis Reed then diverted Scott's diagonal ball towards goal but Garnham got down quickly to gather, in what proved to be the last action of an entertaining first half before referee Abi Byrne signalled for the interval.
On 53 the hosts doubled their lead when James Baker's freekick on the halfway line was flicked on by Heath to Neal, who hit a first-time shot across Alley and into the far bottom corner of the net.
Two minutes later the Blues had a great chance to pull a goal back when Cutbush's shot was blocked and fell to Brown, but the latter put his effort just the wrong side of Garnham's post from inside the area.
A few stoppages for injuries and substitutions somewhat disrupted the flow of the second half, although the home side had Garnham to thank for maintaining their two-goal lead on 73.
Foudil burst down the left and cut the ball back to Brown who side-footed the ball towards the bottom corner, but the keeper got down quickly to palm the ball away to safety.
Minutes later an unmarked Neal headed a Sturgess corner down but straight at Alley from six yards out, before the Town stopper got down to his right to tip a low drive from Sam Squire wide.
Ingram then headed a deep cross from Sturgess just over the bar as the home side pushed for a third, which they got in the first minute of stoppage time following a mix-up in the Town defence. Alley was dispossessed in his own area and left-back - and man of the match - Sturgess rolled the ball into the empty net.
It was always going to be a tough game for Town's youngsters and there can be no doubt that the hosts deserved to progress to a second round tie at Haverhill Rovers.
Hughes will have been pleased to get through nearly an hour on his comeback from injury while Cutbush got through a lot of work in midfield and battled well against experienced campaigner Heath, who was a constant threat to the Blues' backline.
Town XI: Alley, Ruffles, O'Reilly, Scott, Kabongolo, Henderson, K Brown, Cutbush, Reed (Bareck 57), Hughes (Gibbs 57), Foudil. Unused: Bort, Baggott, Baker. Att: 197.
Photos: Ben Pooley
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