AFC Sudbury 0
Needham Market 2
Holders Needham Marker comfortably secured their passage through to the Suffolk FA Premier Cup quarter-finals at former manager Mark Morsley’s AFC Sudbury on Tuesday — but it came at a big cost.
Manager Richard Wilkins is facing up to losing their recent capture from AFC, Adam Mills, for ‘at least three months’ after he ruptured the ligament in his right shoulder, something which could require reconstructive surgery.
A goal in early in each half, from Ryan Gibbs on his comeback from an ankle injury and captain Gareth Heath, was enough to make it through to the last eight of the competition, but it was Mills’ injury at the end of the first half which was consuming Wilkins’ thoughts at the final whistle.
The young pacey forward had returned to Needham in a rich vein of form last month — having scored 11 times in 13 appearances a league lower for Sudbury.
But after seven games and two goals back at the club he started out at, in between a spell at Maldon & Tiptree ahead of his summer move to south Suffolk, his season could be cut short.
“It is good to get through but it is tainted by Adam Mills’ injury,” said Wilkins.
“He is out for three months minimum and that is a massive loss to us.
“Since he has been with us he has done really well. And I thought tonight was perfect for him. We were playing big diagonals all the time, but it is what it is.
“On the whole performance, it is good to get the win. That is the only thing we could do after a really poor first half on Saturday (3-1 FA Trophy loss at lower-league Brentwood Town), which was unacceptable.
“Despite all our analysis and chats in the dressing room about it that is gone now and all we can do is kick on.
“Hopefully we can now go on a bit of a run, which is what we need.”
Asked if he will be heading back into the transfer market to replace Mills, he responded:
“We have tried to bring in players at various times and we have got Armani (Schaar) but he is suspended for three games as he got sent off on Saturday. It wasn’t a sending off, but hey-ho.
“So we are down to bare bones, I must admit.”
Despite naming Callum Harrison, Jake Dye and Jamie Griffiths on the bench, Wilkins fielded a strong side for their cup tie against their former manager.
It only took four minutes for higher-league Needham to get ahead in the tie, with AFC failing to deal with a ball into the box and Paul Walker saving well from Heath, only for Gibbs to react quickest to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Only an unnecessary touch on Adam Mills’ shot, by Dan Morphew, prevented Needham doubling their advantage in the 13th minute, with the assistant referee signalling for offside.
AFC had been looking far too open at the back but managed to force a save out of their ex-goalkeeper, Danny Gay, at the other end when Jamie Eaton-Collins got a toe on Jake Clowsley’s dangerous cross.
Former Needham man Reece Dobson, making his Sudbury debut, engineered some space before firing over, while Luke Ingram’s effort at the other end, following Walker’s punch on a corner, went wide.
Walker was soon called into action again to make a good low save from Ingram’s angled drive, before Sam Mills saved a certain goal from Adam Mills with a good block.
AFC came close to levelling when Clowsley’s effort almost caught Gay out, while Walker made another good save, from Ingram, as the game continued to ebb and flow.
With four minutes until the break, the home side thought they had their equaliser when Clowsley’s strike from range was parried up in the air by Gay, but Colclough, could only send his far-post shot against the crossbar.
The half ended with Sam Mills being fortunate not to concede a penalty when pulling Adam Mills back, with the incident which warranted a free-kick on the edge of the box seeing the forward have to go to hospital with a serious shoulder injury.
The second half was only five minutes old when Needham edged into a 2-0 lead, Walker saving a first effort from the untracked run from Heath before he converted at the second attempt.
The rest of the game was desperately short on chances, with the Marketmen happy to soak up AFC’s pressure.
Needham (20th) return to Bostik League Premier Division action tomorrow (3pm) with an away game at Tonbridge Angels (12th) before hosting Harlow Town (22nd) on Tuesday (7.45pm).
“They are both tough games, and we must win our battles early doors,” said Wilkins.
NEEDHAM: Gay, Carragher, Coakley, Turner (Harrison 78’), K Morphew, D Morphew, Ingram, Heath (c), Gibbs (Griffiths 67’), Wright, Mills (Schaar 46’). . Attendance: 222
Free Press Man of The Match: Kieran Turner.