Sunday, 29 December 2019

Needham Market Reserves - Bloomfields 3G Stadium

Needham Market Reserves
Bloomfields 3G Stadium
Quinton Road
Needham Market

01449 721000
Official Website
Academy & Reserves Twitter

Ground Number: 898
Saturday 28th December 2019

Needham Market Reserves 4-1 Cornard United
Eastern Counties D1 North


Needham Market FC's Reserves previously played in the Eastern Counties Reserve League, though I'm unable to find any information about where they finished. The improved status of their first team allowed the second-string side to make the step up to the Eastern Counties Division 1 in 2013 and in 2018, this was rebranded the Eastern Senior League Division 1 North as attempts were made to introduce a step 6 league for the Essex area, Finishes have generally been disappointing, the team's debut season produced a modest finish of 15th which is their best so far. The worst finish came in 2016 when the team finished bottom of the pile and this was the first of three seasons when they conceded over 100 goals over the season. Fortunes have sightly improved recently and this season the Reserves were given a home of their own, a 3G pitch and stand behind the main ground. The move has seen an improvement in results with the side sitting 11th at the time of play.


Due to the fixtures falling on unusual days of the week during the festive period, I had a free Saturday to groundhopping. Happily, fellow hopper Chris was now starting to become available on Saturdays and so I asked him if he fancied doing something. He was up for it and quickly we agreed on a visit to Stowmarket Town. I'd already written most of my blog as we'd originally planned to visit for the game against Leiston Reserves on 12th November only for the unreliable and vastly overpriced train system in this country to let Chris down on his journey back home from Devon. It had been a busy festive period for me with plenty to drink, so I'd opted for a quiet night in on Friday, rather than risk a trip to New Milton Town, what with the poor weather and ever-more cautious referees. Instead, I had an early night, going to bed at 9 and waking up at midnight for an hour before going back to sleep. I woke up just before 7, watching TV in bed for a couple of hours before getting up just before 9. After having breakfast and getting ready, I left at 10.15, happy that there was no rain nor pitch inspection forecast. I was with Chris just before 11.30 and we were at Stowmarket by 1.

We parked at the ground and took the ten-minute stroll to a local pub, the Walnut Tree. It was an excellent place with a wide range of cider. I had a pint of the only one I'd not tried and supped slowly while I caught up with Twitter. Chris was keen to sample a few local stouts and so I was happy to take it easy and look through some of the areas CAMRA magazines. We walked back, getting to the ground just after 2. The standard £7 was the entry fee and a decent programme £1.50. We headed to the tea bar, each having Southern Fried Chicken and Chips for £3.50. It was very nice, though they were a bit stingy with the chips. I noticed from the teams that ex-Wycombe loanee Dean Bowditch was due to turn out for the hosts. A spot on the halfway line was selected to view the game from. At least that's what I thought as I was settling in until at 2.52 when an announcement came over the tannoy that the game had been called off by the referee. There was a small area of the pitch that he was not happy with and although the groundsman said to give him 15 minutes and he would replace the turf, the referee refused to listen. I've had a bad experience before in this league when another petty official called a game off due to fog with a large crowd for the groundhopping weekend in the ground, the stupid thing was in the ten minutes that it took to get refunded and get out to the car, the fog had completely cleared. Back to today's game, my Futbology (formerly Groundhopper) app saved the day. Whilst Chris and I were waiting in the queue for a refund, I found out that Needham Market Reserves were at home on their second pitch which was a decent setup by all accounts. We were back in the car by 3.05 and at Needham Market ten minutes later, just grateful that we were going to see a game. We'd been a bit lucky that they were at home as the next nearest options were a fair way away.

Looking at the form, Needham Market Reserves weren't in great form, despite a mid-table placing of 11th. They'd last won at Debenham Leisure Centre, 4-1, back on 16th November. Since then they'd suffered defeats to Fakenham Town (2-3) and at Haverhill Borough (1-2) & Felixstowe & Walton Reserves (1-2) as well as draws at home to Downham (3-3) and Ipswich Wanderers (1-1). Cornard United were a place below them in 12th and in the same period and their form was not a lot better. Their two wins had come over March Town United (3-2) and Great Yarmouth Town (3-0) but they'd suffered defeats at Mulbarton Wanderers (1-4), Fakenham Town (1-2) and Ipswich Wanderers (1-7) as well as at home to Leiston Reserves (2-4). By the time we had arrived, George Valentyne had put Cornard ahead in the second minute. From what we saw of the first half, the hosts were having all the possession but not creating any meaningful chances. Indeed, Cornard came close to doubling their lead just before half time when they hit the post. Needham Market continued to dominate but now they were carving out some chances. The post was hit on 53 minutes and then four minutes later, they forced a great save out of Cornard keeper James Askew as the glovesman tipped a shot around the left-hand post. Finally, the hosts got a deserved equaliser with twenty minutes to go when they hit the bar only for Jose Santa De Le Paz to be gifted the follow up from around ten yards. Needham Market continued to pile on the pressure, forcing a few more saves out of Askew. On 75 minutes Cornard had a chance on the break, firing wide of the left-hand post. A minute later, Needham Market were ahead, a cross from the right was bundled home by Thomas Fitzgerald from a few yards out. Eight minutes from time, Needham Market all but sealed the win when Kai Fletcher rounded the goalkeeper. On 86 minutes Fletcher could have had a second when he got away from the defence but he fired wide of the left-hand post. In the last minute, Ben Harris made it 4-1 with a low shot from just outside the area.

There were a fair few hoppers in attendance including 'Burnley' who I'd seen on the Scottish Hop. It had been a decent contest in the end and a nice little setup for a second-string side. I'd popped up to the bar to get some chips at half time and despite the staff being overwhelmed, the service was pretty good and the chips freshly cooked. I left with Chris just before 5 and we had the football on the radio. Nothing really of interest though but good to listen to. I needed petrol so we stopped at Sainsbury's in Bury St Edmonds. The journey home went pretty quickly thanks to the 606 Football phone-in and I dropped Chris off at 6.45. I'd been hoping to stop at a shop in Aylesbury to pick up a few things, but they'd closed at 6. Instead, I headed straight for home, getting in an hour later. I had a catch up online, before starting my blog. Thanks to the moron of a referee at Stowmarket, most of my work was down the pan and with it taking me 3-4 hours to do each entry, I was only able to do some of my entry. I had a couple of cans and had been hoping to grab an early night. However, my body clock wasn't having any of it and so it was the usual Saturday night ritual of Match Of The Day before going to sleep around midnight.


Needham Market's reserve team setup is behind their first team pitch with some of the facilities shared. There's the obligatory metal stand, although at least it isn't from the bog-standard Arena catalogue. There's also further cover thanks to the clubhouse overhand and this building makes for a good looking backdrop. The ground is open on three sides, with the far side being closed. There's a bar and tea bar upstairs which also has a viewing gallery. There's a decent choice of food and beer but cider drinkers are let down with only Kopparberg available.

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