Video & Gallery: Rangers beat Needham to win the league
Soham Town Rangers 4 Needham Market 0 And the winners of the Ridgeons League Premier Division ....Soham Town Rangers! Those were the words which boomed from the announcer s loudspeaker at the trophy presentation after Soham s sensational final
Soham Town Rangers 4 Needham Market 0
"And the winners of the Ridgeons League Premier Division ....Soham Town Rangers!"
Those were the words which boomed from the announcer's loudspeaker at the trophy presentation after Soham's sensational final game victory over Needham Market - the only team in recent weeks that could possibly have denied them that accolade.
The scene was set after Needham managed to avoid defeat in their penultimate game at Dereham Town in midweek, and so needed to win their last match at Soham to secure the title themselves.
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Rangers on the other hand needed at least a draw to clinch the championship ahead of their Suffolk rivals.
The Julius Martin Lane pitch was dry and bumpy, and a healthy crowd (official attendance 680) settled in nervous anticipation as the title-decider got underway.
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An early Needham Market free-kick came to nothing, and from the resulting break Soham earned the game's first corner as Scott Johnson's shot was deflected behind.
Visiting winger Daniel Thrower was the first player to put an effort on target, but his fifth minute shot on the turn was comfortably saved by Lea Jordan.
Needham then forced their opening corner, and indeed looked the better side early on as they constructed a series of raids down the Rangers left flank.
From one such raid in the ninth minute Mark Heath-Preston - Needham's best player on the day - delivered an inswinging cross which was met by Thrower at the far post.
He looked certain to score, but Jordan somehow managed to touch the header on to the foot of the post and the danger was averted.
Heath-Preston opened up the Rangers defence again soon afterwards, but Joby Thorogood failed to connect with his low cross as it flew across the face of goal.
Soham looked nervous in the opening 10 minutes and created little of note until Darren Jimson set up Charles Libam for a rising shot which was comfortably held by Needham goalkeeper Liam Jones.
The hosts began to raise their game at this point, and Martin Bromwich found space on the left to clip a dangerous ball to the near post where Libam's effort was smothered at the expense of a corner.
Needham's Mark Bailey was yellow-carded for dissent in the 16th minute, and soon afterwards Jimson screwed a shot wide of the top right-hand corner after being released by Michael Simpson.
Soham's approach was much more positive now, and Jimson's delayed shot was turned behind by Jones as they pressed for a breakthrough.
It duly came from the resulting Callum Kearns corner, with Jimson able to nod the ball high over the goalkeeper. Paul Berry did his utmost to keep the effort out, but the referee decided that it had gone over the line and Rangers were in front.
Needham struggled to contain Soham now, and in the 31st minute Libam won possession just inside opposition territory and then beat two players before firing a shot wide of the near post.
Libam was soon in the thick of the action again, but the 'keeper did just enough to keep the ball out and the danger was cleared by a covering defender.
Needham then put together their best move of the afternoon and should have equalised.
Heath-Preston was released wide on the right by a long ball from defence, and when the cross came in Joby Thorogood looked odds-on to score.
His header was certainly powerful enough, but he directed it wide of the far post with Jordan beaten.
Soham continued to make the running, with sharp tackling all over the pitch and good movement too - particularly up front where Jimson and Libam were outstanding.
Rangers started the second half the same way as they had finished the first, with Johnson creating a chance for Simpson whose effort was blocked by a defender.
Needham then won two corners in quick succession, but Jordan - unlike his counterpart Jones - never looked in trouble and gathered the ball safely.
Then in the 50th minute Soham crucially doubled their advantage.
Jimson found himself in acres of space just eight yards from goal after receiving a header from Andy Coleman, and as Needham appealed in vain for offside he coolly placed his shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
The visitors looked both stunned and beaten at this stage, and soon afterwards Rangers put the match beyond recall with goal number three.
This time Kearns was the player on target with his first goal for the club, his dipping 22-yard drive leaving Jones rooted to the spot in Needham's goal as he was beaten for a third time.
There was only one team in it now, and Libam was only just denied by a defender after being put through by Simpson.
A cross from Johnson then had the Needham goalkeeper in trouble again, but the referee came to his assistance by awarding a free-kick.
Jordan was finally called into action again on the hour mark when Heath-Preston fired in a low shot, but the goalkeeper saved well at the foot of the post.
At the other end Johnson was found unmarked from Libam's cross, but his lob fell well wide of the far post.
Glenn Snell - on for Joby Thorogood at the start of the second half - then missed a great chance for Needham, lobbing wastefully over the bar when left free in the box.
Fellow substitute James Evans then combined with Thrower to create an opening for Heath-Preston, and although his powerful shot beat Jordan it was kept out bravely by Coleman who needed treatment afterwards.
Libam was a constant menace for the home side, and Andy Jones - who had only been on the pitch for just over 10 minutes - was red-carded for taking a kick at the Rangers hit-man.
Jones did well for once to keep out Johnson's curling drive from the resulting free-kick, but could then only watch as Libam showed some great skills on the edge of the box, bamboozling the defence before dispatching a volley which was deflected narrowly wide.
Soham's fourth goal soon followed however, with Kearns again the player on target after a sensational move.
Libam's crossfield pass from right to left was matched in quality by Andy Furnell's ball from left to right, and Kearns finished off with a shot across the face of goal and into the far corner of the net to make the score 4-0.
With two minutes remaining the referee made his only mistake of the afternoon in dismissing Libam.
The striker was clean through after jostling with Needham's Dan Pilcher, but as he tried to shrug off the defender he was deemed to have used his elbow and was red-carded as a result. It was the wrong decision, and if anything Pilcher was the culprit in the incident.
Needham - who overall looked like a team one match past its sell-by date - applied late pressure in search of a consolation goal, but even that eluded them.
Thrower screwed a shot inches wide, Snell's shot was tipped over the bar by Jordan and Evans fired into the side-netting just before the final whistle heralded Soham's remarkable and deserved triumph.
Soham Town Rangers
1. Lea Jordan (9); 2. Simon Flanz (8); 3. Scott Johnson (9); 4. Andy Coleman (9); 5. Stuart Williams (8); 6. Michael Simpson (8); 7. Charles Libam (9); 8. Scott Carter (8); 9. Callum Kearns (9); 10. Darren Jimson (9); 11. Martin Bromwich (8). Substitutes: Andy Furnell (7); Peter Hinde (8); Paul Jones (7).
1. Liam Jones (3); 2. Jonathon Thorogood (4); 3. Dan Pilcher (4); 4. Mark Bailey (4); 5. Richard Butler (3); 6. Rhys Barber (4); 7. Paul Berry (4); 8. Matthew Buckle (4); 9. Mark Heath-Preston (7); 10. Joby Thorogood (3); 11. Daniel Thrower (6). Substitutes: Glenn Snell (6); Andy Jones (2); James Evans (6).