Dereham Town prove a match for Ryman North leaders Needham Market in bid to make play-offs

Ryan Hawkins, right, found the net for the Magpies at Needham. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Ryan Hawkins, right, found the net for the Magpies at Needham. Picture: SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Dereham had to dig deep to gain a useful point and maintain their play-off hopes against their title-chasing hosts, writes Rene Kendal.

The Magpies went ahead in the first half through Ryan Hawkins but were forced to settle for a share of the spoils on the hour mark when defender Daniel Morphew sliced a centre into his own net.

The result leaves Dereham in seventh, a point and one place behind Norfolk rivals Wroxham on goal difference with both a point off Thurrock who occupy the final play-off spot.

Needham are three points clear at the top and made their intentions known from the start yesterday when they swept into the visitors' half from the start. Dereham's Sam Borrer soon nearly put Hawkins in with a long ball over the home defence, keeper Shaun Phillips dashing out of his area to clear.

The Magpies got the start they wanted when, with just 12 minutes gone, Adam Smith's near post centre reached Borrer, who in turn found Hawkins, who side-footed home from 10 yards.

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Needham responded with some hopeful long balls, well dealt with by Morphew and Matt Howard, but they went close on 23 minutes when Ian Westlake presented leading scorer Sam Newson with a sight of goal, but the striker's effort from 12 yards was superbly turned aside by keeper Andy Wilton.

Hawkins was then unlucky to see his 20-yard drive beat Phillips' outstretched arm. But the shot flew just past his right-hand post.

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Needham came close to an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, with Oliver Fenn's close-range effort hacked off the line by Lewis Wallace following Luke Ingram's ball from the left.

The hosts were quickly out of the blocks after the restart with Michael Brothers volleying Darryl Coakley's long diagonal centre into Wilton's arms. The Magpies' keeper then did well to punch clear a corner from Coakley before Brothers dragged a 20-yard effort wide.

The Suffolk side won a series of corners before their pressure paid off when Brothers' attempted centre from the left was sliced into his own net by Morphew.

Nine minutes later, Westlake flicked Oliver Brown's forward pass on to Brothers and the lively striker volleyed a low 20-yard drive into Wilton's arms.

Needham continued to press, but play was halted in the 79th minute when Wilton needed treatment for a head injury after superbly claiming a deep cross from Brothers.

Dereham created a chance in the 85th minute when Luke Tuttle fired high and wide following good build-up between Olly Willis and Michael Clunan. And in added time substitute Toby Hilliard chased down two long balls, but was denied on both occasions by Phillips.

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