The home side were overawed for most of the first half before improving significantly after the break, only for Needham goalkeeper Danny Gay to score a dramatic equaliser deep into injury time.
The Gulls included a surprise name in midfield with the after Tambeson Eyong completed a move from Bishop’s Stortford earlier in the day for his third spell with the club. Eyong took the place of captain Lee O’Leary in central midfield after he left for former club Kingstonian.
An injury picked up by Steve Sheehan against Enfield Town saw him join Marlon Agyakwa, Mitchell Gilbey, Sheldon Sellears and Conor Gough on sidelines. Ryan O’Rawe came into the side to partner Jack Lampe in central defence.
Coming into the match in second place, Needham Market started in dominant fashion. After only three minutes a cross from the right wing from former-Canvey striker John Sands found the head of Reece Dobson inside the area, but he was only able to steer the ball wide of the post with a diving header.
On five minutes a cross from a similar area this time picked out Sands lurking around the penalty spot. The forward rose well but his header landed on the roof of the net.
Reece Dobson nearly put the visitors ahead a minute later when he collected a through ball after cutting in from the left. Dobson hit a well struck low shot from the edge of the box with his left foot which thumped the inside of the post before flashing across goal before being cleared.
The pressure finally told on seven minutes when Dobson ran onto a ball down the left wing, delivering a cross into the area. Ashley Dumas attempted a clearance but miscued his collection, scuffing the ball straight to John Sands who fired across goal and into the bottom corner to put the Marketmen in front.
Needham continued to create chances as Canvey struggled to get any foothold in the game. On 13 minutes Sands had a decent effort from the right narrowly miss creeping in at the far post, and four minutes later Colchester United-loanee Jack Curtis saw a right-footed shot from the edge of the area also go wide.
Canvey finally made an attacking contribution to the game in the 23rd minute when some neat footwork just outside the box from Tayshan Hayden-Smith allowed him to play a smart pass through to Harrison Chatting. The midfielder fired a first time shot with his left foot across goal which drifted inches wide.
They created another opportunity to draw level on 32 minutes when a cross from the left found the head of George Sykes at the back post. However, a superb defensive header managed to divert Sykes’ effort off target at the expense of a corner.
After quiet spell Needham Market were soon back on the attack. On 33 minutes Luke Ingram won a header against Jack Lampe 25 yards from goal, nodding the ball through to Jack Curtis. The forward connected well with his shot but was denied by Lewis Moore who pulled off a magnificent save, flinging a hand skywards to tip the ball over the bar.
Moore was called into action again from the corner as the ball fell loose inside the area, rushing out to smother defender Ian Miller’s goalbound shot from close range.
Perhaps their best chance to score again in the first half came on 38 minutes when Luke Ingram delivered a low cross from the right which Jack Curtis met at the near post. Curtis prodded a first time shot which went the wrong side of the upright.
Canvey nearly drew level in fortuitous circumstances in first half injury time when Omarr Lawson sent over a cross from the right wing. The ball floated over ex-Southend United goalkeeper Danny Gay and came ever so close to going in at the back post.
The second half started in a subdued fashion in comparison to the first. The only real sight of goal in the opening quarter of an hour came when a long ball forwards found John Sands, but under pressure from Jack Lampe his shot was saved by Lewis Moore.
The Gulls drew level in the 62 minute when referee Anthony Pope awarded a penalty for a foul by defender Sam Nunn on George Sykes. Joey May stepped up and struck a poor spot kick which Danny Gay was able to save low down with a slight dive to his right. However, Gay was unable to hold onto the ball and May reacted quickest to dink the rebound into the top corner.
Having drawn Canvey level Joey May nearly helped put his side in front with 20 minutes to play when he played a good ball across the face of goal from the right. The pass was crying out to be tapped home at the back post, but unfortunately none of his teammates were on hand to apply the finish.
Canvey did score two minutes later through a swift counter attack which saw Omarr Lawson run the ball into midfield where he was fouled. The referee played a good advantage to allow play to continue, with Tayshan Hayden-Smith feeding Jake Pitty down the right wing.
Pitty crossed low into the area for Harrison Chatting who scored with a toe poke across goal and into the bottom corner to register his 19th goal in Canvey colours.
It looked as though Canvey were going to see the game out until Needham were awarded a corner in the fourth minute of injury time. Every opposition player piled forward, with the corner falling loose for goalkeeper Danny Gay to remarkably score from close range to earn a dramatic point for his side and send them top of the table.
Danny Heale Post-Match Interview