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Newby's late strike wins play-off for Witham
WITHAM TOWN 1 NEEDHAM MARKET 0 Ryman League division one north play-off semi-final Kris Newby's late strike proved the difference as Witham Town continued their habit of winning games late on in their Ryman League division one north play-off semi-final.
The home fans had to wait until the 87th minute but it finally came as Newby drilled the ball home in a 1-0 win against Needham Market.
There was some early controversy even before the game had started as Witham named Lee Townrow in their starting line-up despite him having joined on loan from the Suffolk side earlier in the season.
The hosts said they had clearance to play him but the visitors weren't happy with his inclusion.
After the disappointment of missing out on the league title at the weekend, Witham knew they needed a good start to settle any early nerves.
However, they took time to settle and it was the visitors who made the early running instead with some incisive forward play.
Town's defence weathered the storm, though, with Luke Olley in particularly dominant form and they slowly came into the game.
The spark they needed was provided by the running of Danny Emmanuel and the emphasis of the play switched to the Needham goal.
A series of corners kept the pressure on and Tom Wraight stung keeper Andrew Plummer's hands with a shot from 25 yards, while Plummer scrambled the ball away after an effort by Emmanuel.
There was little in the way of clear-cut chances though and Needham remained a threat on the break.
They went agonisingly close to opening the scoring on 31 minutes when Sam Newson spotted home keeper Martyn Guest off his line and tried an audacious chip from 30 yards but it went just over the bar.
The play kept switching from one end to another and it was then Witham who had an opportunity to break the deadlock but Plummer was off his line well to make the block when Joe Sweeney got clear.
It meant things stayed goalless at half-time but Witham came out strongly after the break and within three minutes of the restart, Paul White had forced Plummer into a great save with a thunderous long-range shot.
The end-to-end nature of the contest continued though and Guest was then called on to make an impressive double stop, firstly from Kem Izzet's free-kick and then a header on the rebound by Michael Brothers.
The longer the game went on with neither able to break the deadlock, the scrappier it became as nerves began to show.
Both sides made changes to their attacks, but Witham's was the most fruitful as Shamido Pedulu came on and his pace caused problems for the visitors' tiring defence.
And that pressure finally told as in the 87th minute, the ball came to Kris Newby and he drilled a low shot past Plummer from an angle.
It sparked wild celebrations in the home ranks and proved to be the last real action as the hosts safely saw out four added minutes to win the game.
They will now face Harlow Town in the play-off final at the Village Glass Stadium on Sunday.
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