Tilbury 3, Needham Market 4
After extra time
TILBURY suffered heartache and controversy in a thrilling Ryman One North play-off at Chadfields on Friday.
The play-off format concept may not be universally popular but one thing's for sure: in the Ryman League, at least, they provide thriller after thriller. On Thursday Grays bowed out in a penalty shoot-out and there was more high drama at Tilbury.
The script was written in advance. Needham’s Sam Newson had scored 29 goals before a bad injury in mid-December sidelined him for six weeks and cost him a trial with Gillingham.
Since returning to action he had managed one goal in 15 games, and that was a penalty. Somehow you knew that this would be Newson’s night.
Tilbury have been the season’s surprise packages, buzzing around the play-off places all season and finishing third when few, perhaps even Tilbury themselves, had expected such success.
Needham’s form had slipped badly, along with Newson’s, but they had still netted 104 goals on their way to fourth place.
It was Tilbury who scored first through skipper Gary Henty in the sixth minute and they could, indeed should have stretched their lead. But Henty and Alex Read missed simple chances.
Read, Tilbury’s top scorer, lasted only 26 minutes before injury forced him to withdraw. Jack West replaced him. Needham equalised on 42 minutes when Newson was brought down by Joe Nightingill and converted the penalty himself.
Soon after the interval Henty blazed another great chance over the bar following great work by West on the left. Newson was playing wide on the right but in the 72nd minute manager Danny Laws took off Danny Bloomfield, switched Newson to the centre and brought on Duane Wright to play on the right wing.
This was almost a ‘what happened next?’ moment, for – still in the 72nd minute – Newson carried the ball back to the right flank and it was Wright who popped up in the middle to head home his cross at the near post.
Shortly afterwards Newson cut through the heart of the home defence, James Marrable saved at his feet and Wright lifted the rebound over the top with the goal at his mercy.
With several delays for injuries, there was always going to be plenty of added time and there were further hold-ups during that period. The half eventually, and quite justifiably, lasted more than 105 minutes and in the 103rd of them Tilbury drew level when Eljay Worrell scrambled the ball over the line amid a goalmouth melee.
So it was into extra time, and in the fifth minute Dockers regained the lead through West, who burst through a tired-looking back line to finish with confidence.
The stage was now set for Newson and, sure enough, he it was who hammered in the equaliser a minute from the end of the first period.
And it was Newson who netted from close range in the 15th minute of the second period to complete his hat-trick, putting the Marketmen 4-3 up.
There were still four minutes to be added and it was a shame that such a memorable game ended on a note of controversy as Tilbury were denied what looked from the sidelines to be a very clear penalty. But they can be proud of the part they played in yet another memorable Ryman play-off game and their performance through the season.
Market live to fight another day and go to Enfield Town on Sunday for the final.