Dereham Town still right in the Ryman North play-off mix

Dereham Town, black and white, in recent Ryman North action. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Dereham Town, black and white, in recent Ryman North action. Picture: SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

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

The Magpies drew 1-1 at Needham Market after edging Waltham Abbey 1-0 at Aldiss Park on Saturday thanks to Luke Tuttle's 16th-minute penalty.

Four points over the Easter weekend has left Matt Henman's men 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.

Dereham's third-from-last game of the regular Ryman North season is at home on Saturday against Brentwood. And it's another massive test for the men in black and white with their visitors sitting third in the table and looking strong contenders to finish in the top five.

But the Magpies have already shown they can mix it with the big boys and continued their good run of results against the better sides in the league earlier this week.

Needham, now just one point clear of Harlow at the top, made their intentions known from the start when they swept into the visitors' half from the start. Dereham's Sam Borrer soon nearly put Ryan 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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Hawkins was then unlucky to see his 20-yard drive beat Phillips' outstretched arm. But the shot flew just past his right-hand post.

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.

Yet their second-half pressure eventually told when Michael Brothers' attempted centre from the left was sliced into his own net by the unfortunate Dan Morphew.