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It's all getting a little bit exciting!!

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Non league football is an interesting animal and trying to predict what will and won’t happen is something very few of us get right.  In my last ‘Musings’ I spoke about the disappointment of our performance at Barkingside and I had real concerns about my team going forward.

Move forward to the following Tuesday after that performance and we put together a slightly improved display to beat Waltham Forest 1-0 and then came the Saturday game against the other Waltham in which we turned in a vintage display and won the game 4-0.  We looked competent, confident and really could have won the game by more.

That exuberance came with us to form team Romford the following Wednesday and an excellent game ensued with great attacking from both teams but some questionable defending from ALL players kept letting The ‘Boro back into a game that we had led twice.  Then with the score at 2-2 and seconds to go that would have given both teams a points each (which was the right result I believe) our lack of experience in seeing the game out let Romford steal the points.

They celebrated like they had won the FA Cup and although slightly over the top the team ethic that has grown in recent months at Romford is quite obviously why they have done well.  I have no doubt if they had started the season like they are finishing it they would be in the shake up.

Then on to Maldon, not a happy hunting ground for me, but all bad runs must come to an end – eventually but not on this performance.  To be honest we really started well then gave away a penalty and capitulated!!  3-0 down at half-time was us getting off lightly; what the hell happened?!?! I am not sure really but we made changes to shape and personnel, played 3 up top and with only 15 minutes played we were back to 3-2 with the Jammers creaking.

However that equaliser just wasn’t to be and with players upfield accompanied with the kitchen sink Maldon broke away and sealed the win.  Post match I was felt pretty negative towards the season run in, I felt we lacked the balls to have a real crack at it.  Other results didn’t help as Heybridge and Harlow won their games but there was a spark of light with Thurrock losing.

I now refer you back to my first line today and Aveley arrive at Bloomfields on the following Tuesday night.  At half-time the score was 0-0, we should have led but again lacked something.  But what we certainly didn’t lack was effort, work ethic or balls!  In the second period we had waves of attacks but it took until the 80th minute for News to put us ahead.  3 minutes later however Aveley were level, can you believe it?!  Well I couldn’t but you know what, the people that mattered knew what had to be done and those people were the 11 Needham lads on the pitch.  2 minutes later Chris Hogg scores and in injury time News seals it, and guess what Thurrock lose again!

No time to lose, as Thursday arrived with Champions elect Witham Town arriving.  We had lost Luke Hammond to Injury as we had Skipper Driver but Ian Westlake was back, jet lagged but tanned and keen.  This was a game where our inner strength came to the fore.  News opened the scoring after 2 minutes and we would pretty much dominate the 1st half.

Much more was expected from The Town in the second period and they gave it their all but for every long ball lofted forward the was a Hogg or a Nunn to head it back.  We were solid and compact in defence but still were able to play with a bit of flair going forward.  It wasn’t all rosy however with News pulling up with a hamstring injury and then having had a great returning game Westy damaged his knee which was the end of his game and almost certainly his season.  A major blow but you know what Heybridge had lost and I am sure knocking knees could be heard from certain quarters of Essex!

Saturday comes and with it the rejuvenated Ware who gave us a decent test but we had the wind in our sales and we also had Michael Brothers!!  Mike and me have a long association, we have had great times and massive rows, but you know what he could just be the right man at the right place at the right time.  Elsewhere Heybridge and Harlow won but Thurrock stuttered so it was all very very tight.  Don’t you just love the play offs?!

BRUVS' GOES CLOSE IN HIS RETURN MATCH WITH WALTHAM ABBEY

Tuesday nights results were a bit boring (for us of course) and last night we travelled to relegation threatened Erith & Belvedere arriving at 7:30pm due to the M25 car park and kicking off at 7:50pm!  It was quite a 20 minute period, but we started very well and ended the game winning 3-0.  Our dominance should have maybe gleaned more goals but it keeps our good run going and I think there is every chance that it will go to the wire.

The run in for the 4 fighting for the 3 places is interesting as you can see below:-

Thurrock

12/4/2014

A

Soham Town Rangers

16/4/2014

A

Waltham Forest

19/4/2014

H

Redbridge

21/4/2014

A

Ware

24/4/2014

H

Ware

26/4/2014

H

Tilbury

Heybridge Swifts

12/4/2014

A

Romford

15/4/2014

A

Tilbury

19/4/2014

H

Witham Town

21/4/2014

A

AFC Sudbury

26/4/2014

H

Redbridge

Harlow Town

10/4/2014

A

Witham Town

12/4/2014

H

Cheshunt

15/4/2014

A

Redbridge

19/4/2014

A

Needham Market

21/4/2014

H

Maldon & Tiptree

26/4/2014

A

Brentwood Town

Needham Market

12/4/2014

A

Tilbury

15/4/2014

H

AFC Sudbury

19/4/2014

H

Harlow Town

21/4/2014

A

Soham Town Rangers

26/4/2014

H

Chartham Town

 

Thurrock’s run in seems to be the ‘easiest’ and I think they will make to top 5.  They were pretty awesome against us a fortnight ago.  I think that tonight’s game between Harlow and Witham will play a part as it the first of Harlow’s four away games and not any of the grounds they are to visit have a playing surface that is even remotely like a 3G pitch!  Knees may knock at Scraley Road with a tough run in to contend with but Jodie Brown is a decent manager and will prepare his team accordingly.

As for us, well one thing for certain is that I am not going to do a Mourinho and say ‘we are not……….’ and ‘we don’t want………….’ What we are though is in there having a go.  Our run in is tough but I tell you what for the four teams in the frame each match is a cup final and then for the 3 who make it to the play offs they have at least another cup final if not two.  Whoever comes out to join the champions following the play off final on Sunday May 4th will have certainly deserved it; lets hope its us!

Thurrock Manager Mark Stimpson

Harlows Manager Danny Chapman

Heybridge Manager Jodie Brown

Who's this!! Answers on a postcard!!!

I wonder which of these will be looking glum at 5pm on April 26th (or before maybe)???

No let up as we approach the business end of the season

Written by Mark Morsley on .

My Musings start with the Saturday before last when we welcomed Cheshunt FC to Bloomfields fresh from their appearance on TV the previous Thursday where their forward thinking as a club was being covered.  With a fully fit squad I surprisingly had a decision to make on personnel, which was a good position to be in.  However having missed a few games and then getting a start Luke Hammond was injured soon into the game and was replaced by Kem Izzet.  At that stage the switch didn’t effect us and we dominated the proceedings.  Having seen a number of decent chances go begging we went 1-0 up when Ryan Crisp turned the Ambers keeper with a clever flick.  We really were in control of proceedings but Kem received a further blow on this back (which had been injured on the Wednesday game) and had to be withdrawn during the half time break.

He was replaced by Sam Newson and we started the second half in a positive fashion and it was no surprise when a desperate defender gave us a penalty.  Unfortunately the visiting custodian guessed right and saved Crispys attempt.  The game really changed soon after that when we were caught cold by a short corner and a shot from the edge of our box was not dealt with allowing an equaliser.  Soon after Hoggy misjudged a back pass to Plums and we were behind.  This gave our guests a real lift and all we could offer in reply was a poor excuse for a reaction.

This second half display was a performance that quite frankly was not acceptable and on behalf of all players and management I apologise to our excellent supporters for this.  A huge lack of direction and discipline meant we had little to offer to get us back into the game and even when they lost their centre half to a second yellow they were still the better team.  Poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor poor!!  That really sums it up.

The one good thing about football is there is always the next game and with 2nd place Soham Town Rangers in town 3 days later a reaction was what was needed.

 
KEM IZZET WHO PRESENCE WAS MISSED IN THE SECOND HALF AGAINST CHESHUNT
 
Thankfully the reaction was a positive one and we managed to gain a key victory last Tuesday night to alleviate, somewhat, the gloom following our previous 2 defeats.  Soham Town Rangers are also enjoying a fine season and siting in 2nd place we knew that a repeat of the second half performance against Cheshunt would be well off the mark.  The game started at a pretty high tempo with both teams trying to get an early foothold and it was the influential Dave Cowley who saw plenty of the ball; the Cows/Coaks partnership down our left side was where we caused the Greens a number of problems.

Again injury struck in the first half when Morphs went down in a lot of pain with a shin injury (which turned out to not be as bad as we first thought) but with Hoggy on the bench we had a very capable replacement.  We kept good possession and I felt pretty much domineered the half but no goals were forthcoming.

I really believed that if we could take the levels we had shown in the first period into the second half we could go on to win the game.  Our possession again was good but we just needed something a bit different and the introduction of Sam Newson and Russell Malton gave us that.  With a different point of attack we were asking the Rangers defence few more questions and it was no surprise when News scored our first goal.  From then on in it was about calm heads and our players doing their jobs, which they all did especially our custodian Plums who pulled off a stunning save in injury time.

48 hours later we were at it again with another promotion hopeful Thurrocks coming to Bloomfields.  This match would end up being an excellent encounter but for the first 20 minutes we were a group of players running round with big red self-destruct buttons in our hands!  This unusual situation meant that mid way through the first half we were 3-0 down and to be honest it could have been more because the Rocks were bloody excellent!

We switched Skipper Driver to right back and Kieron Morphew into midfield and started clawing ourselves back into the game.  Morph had a real influence on our possession as the Rocks were surprised by the fact that we could actually play the game and we stated to carve out a few chances.  That man Morphew headed a lifeline and I have to say despite being 3-1 ahead our guest were looking very shaky. Unfortunately half-time arrived and we really didn’t want the game to stop.

The message during the break was carry on and we did, dominating the proceedings and we needed that goal.  Dave Cowley hit the bar with a great strike and then Cows got his head on to a great Russell Malton cross.  Now we had a game on our hands!  Kem Izzet and Malts were replaced by Ryan Crisp and Luke Ingram as we threw the preverbal kitchen sink at them, which was to no avail.  This was an excellent game between two committed sides but we just didn’t get what we deserved which was a point as a bare minimum.  However to start as we did is something we need to eradicate from our game, as it will be costly as was proved here.

So game 4 arrived less than 48 hours later as we travelled to the Oakside Stadium home of Barkingside FC.  This was a game we really needed to win but that slow start came back to bite us on the bum when a short back pass was nicked by a Sky Blue striker to put us behind.  We reacted well but lacked a bit of ‘cut and thrust’ so we switched to a 3-man front line and started to get a bit of success.  Cows crashed a shot against the bar that bounced down to what I believe was over the line but with the Ref unsighted and the Linesman woefully behind play it was waived away.  

We scored a deserved equaliser when Crispy drove inside two defenders and smashed the ball home shortly before the break.  The second half was a story of frustration and we ‘huffed and puffed’ but our hosts were camped in and were not to be beaten, in fact it took a great Plummer save to preserve one point.  I was a bit deflated at the end, the 4 games in 8 days had not gone to plan and I was as knackered as the players (physiologically as opposed to physically) but my mood was lifted when I looked at the other results in the league.  That mood has further increased following last nights (Mondays) results and then looking at tonight’s games it could change again.  You cannot say that for the supporters it is not exciting and despite not being a real fan of play offs they do keep the season going right to the end.

What we need to do now is believe in ourselves and the way we play.  When we relax and pass the ball we are a decent outfit but sometimes the desire to win makes us play in a slightly desperate way.  Making a pass and taking a pass in a pressure situation is the hardest thing to do and it marks the winners from the also ran’s.  We have a great squad of players, talented and all focused to be successful.  Things don’t always go the way we want but what the last week or so has shown me is that if we show courage and ‘balls’ we will have every chance to achieve that play off place.

A young lad who has shown all those things and more this season is Kieron Morphew.  I am not sure I have come across a young lad with a better attitude than Morphs has and his desire to improve his game is a real example to other young lads that, like him, have benefitted from our Academy.  In recognition of his displays we have offered him a new 3-year contract, which I am delighted to confirm he has accepted and signed.  

KIERON MORPHEW WHO HAS AGREED TERMS UNTIL MAY 2016

A huge part of the development of our club is building a squad of lads who are of the right age and have the right attitude.  We have a few in our 1st team squad this year and there are one or two catching the eye in the group of second year scholars.  You only have to look how important they are to the excellent Suffolk 18's squad and I believe they will be important to us going forward.

The futures bright - The futures red!!

 

Suffolk Premier Cup - Semi Final

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Last night we played and were beaten by Felixstowe & Walton Utd in the Suffolk Premier Cup - Semi Final.  I want to pay tribute to our opponents on the night.  Kev O'Donnell and his staff certainly did their homework and his team put that plan into action in the best possible way.  They thoroughly deserved to win the game, their work ethic was excellent and their confidence to keep possession was impressive.  To be totally honest if it had not been for an outstanding display by my goalkeeper Andy Plummer the score would have been somewhat different.

This was a competition that we were keen to do well in, it's not a secret that it is not our primary target, but a final at Portman Road is something all staff, players and supporters would look forward to.  Felixstowe are a great club run by decent people and the successes they will achieve this year is long overdue and fully deserved.

For us we can now fully focus on the job at hand starting with Saturdays home game with Cheshunt.  By all accounts we will have a fully fit squad and the 8 days starting this weekend will define our season.  I am sure that today our club are a bit down but how you deal we deal with defeat is key in the development of our club.  If you cannot deal with defeat you cannot be a winner and I know that we are all focused in our aim to be winners.

At last we have had some football!!

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Last Saturday we finally managed to get a game under our belt when we visited Brentwood Town, the first in over a month.  With a bit of player movement in both directions during that month there would be a settling in period for Messrs Hogg, Crisp and Cowley.  The first half was a bit scrappy with a very heavy pitch making play very difficult but as the half passed we took more control of proceedings.  Looking for a positive second half we were rocked when our hosts took full advantage of a loose defensive pass and took the lead.
 
Reaction was needed and that mistake kicked us into life, firstly with Luke Ingram smashing a right footed shot into the net.  We then went on to dominate the proceedings with the introduction of debutant Dave Cowley and Kieran Morphew giving us a more attacking threat on our right side.  Ingers did well on the edge of the Brentwood box and the ball found its way to the trusted left foot of Ian Westlake who slotted the ball home.  Cowley then finished of a fine debut with another cultured goal from the wide left position he was swapped to.  
 
Although this was a scruffy match we showed good fitness levels and got better as the match went on. That familiarity would be important as we embark on a mad collection of games squeezed into the short time left for the rest of season starting with the crucial home match against Heybridge Swifts.
 
The Swifts were a team we had in our sights and a positive performance was a must.  Choosing an attacking team we had our guests on the back foot from the start and really should have been 3 or 4 goals to the good after 30 minutes.  As it happened we were only 1-0 up with Sam Newson linking up well with Ryan Crisp to smash a great volley home.  As is so often the case if you don’t take your chances that comes back to bite you on the backside and from a whipped in free kick old Needham boy Jamie Guy got a touch and scored the equaliser just before the break.
 
We had been poor for the last 15 minutes of that half and a positive second half was needed which was put in motion by an great start but we could not find that elusive goal.  Luke Hammond replaced the tiring Newson and Luke improved our possession as we kept probing the Swifts defence.  Against the run of play Heybridge had a great chance when an excellent cross was not converted at the near post, that spelled the need for a further change and Captian Ollie Fenn moved from central defence to central attack.  His presence and mobility caused havoc and he was fouled to five us a penalty.  To be honest the Referee had missed two stone wall penally shouts previously so although this was the least convincing of the 3 there was little complaint from our guests.
 
Kem Izzet stepped up to dispatch the ball home and give us that deserved lead.  There was 15 minutes to see out and we showed good composure dealing with the best Heybridge had and keeping good possession to gain another 3 points.
 
Last Thursday we had one of our biggest challenges this season with a trip to long time league leaders VCD Athletic.  One of the best games this season was the 0-0 draw at home against the Vickers and knowing the way they like to play I felt it would be an excellent match.  On the night I had a simple message for my troops, 'we will match them up and make this a game of football so the best footballing team will win it’.  As it happened on the night the best footballing team did win thanks to an excellent 2nd half performance after going into the break 1-0 down.  
 
We were udder the cosh a bit from the start but our defence held firm until a mix up allowed our hosts to take the lead.  The 2nd half was all about us being more offensive plus the addition of Ryan Crisp and Dave Cowley had a real positive effect.  Crispy’s hammer left foot brought us level and then he used a deft touch to put us ahead late in the game.
 
It really was a great showing and finished off a great week for us getting 9 important points from 3 games.  This needs to be a the launch pad for a real onslaught on the top 5 of the division so we can be in the shake up at the season ends and see where that takes us.
 
Felixstowe's 'Roy of the Rovers' AKA Ben Cranfield gets some practise in for Wednesdays battle royal
 
Saturdays game fell foul of the rain so I took the opportunity to visit my local club Brantham who were playing Felixstowe & Walton United in a key Thurlow Nunn League game.  As we are due to play Kevvy O'Donnells troops on Wednesday in the Suffolk premier Cup Semi-Final, it was a sensible move.  On the day the Seasiders were far too good for the Imps with leading goalscorer Ben Cranfield showing that he hasn't forgot all that I taught him 8 years ago at Needham. It was also interesting to see one of my favourite players, Danny Smy, in his role as Assistant Manager.  I am sure I heard him praising the Referee at one stage, I really must get my hearing tested?!?!?
 
Legend Danny Smy in his Leiston days.  He was always a trend setter with his hairstyles?!?!?
 
In all seriousness I believe that Felixstowe will be a real tough match for us with the difference in leagues playing no part whatsoever.  It is no secret that this competition is not our main objective but that does not mean we do not want to get to the Portman Road final.  We will off course give Kev and his club the level of respect that is appropriate to the counties premier football competition, although if its a choice of a play off position or a final, well you can guess which is of more importance to me. 
 
I would like to finish by praising Nick Francis and Ken Thorpe with their willing band of helpers who got our pitch in a decent condition for the Tuesday match against Heybridge.  It has been sole destroying for those guys over the past 2 months but their determination to get games on now needs to be matched by staff and players to be successful in this seasons run in.

RYAN CRISP AGREES 2 SEASON DEAL

Written by Mark Morsley on .

I have agreed terms with Ryan Crisp to join us from Leiston today. Ryan was a preseason target of mine who choose Victory Road in preference to Bloomfields. He spent a month on loan with us earlier in the season scoring 5 goals but was recalled by his parent club at the end of the month. I am pleased that he has committed to us for this season and next which will ensure his undoubted ability can develop with our young squad. 

RYAN CRISP IN HIS KIRKLEY DAYS

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