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Water water everywhere, but nothing to drink!!

Written by Mark Morsley on .

As I sit at my desk having just heard that the AFC Sudbury match tonight has fallen fowl of the wet weather I am asking myself when the hell are we going to play another match?!  Since the Burnham Ramblers game on December 14th we have only managed 3 games, all away.  From those matches we played well and had a good win at Wroxham, performed like Jekyll and Hyde at Chatham to come away with a point and undertook a ‘smash and grab’ to take the win at Dereham.

In fact I missed the Dereham match as I have been recuperating from a shoulder operation.  I went into hospital to have a simple bit of bone trimming for a long standing problem.  However the surgeon discovered that my Rotator Cuff had to be rebuilt so a two day recovery period has been extended by some months and I currently am wearing a contraption that makes me look like Robocop!!

WHAT DO YOU MEAN THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL?!

The once lush surface at Bloomfields has become a paddy field and despite all the hard work done by Kenny, VC Francis and other willing helpers there is no respite from the incessant rain!!  I, like you, just have not seen anything like it and as I look at the weather app on my phone for the 100th time this week it still shows more of the wet stuff coming in.

This month was supposed to be a cracker; Witham, Sudbury, Heybridge and Thurrock all at home.  However looking at the weather it is likely that we just won’t play any home games.  Winter break is one thing but this is like a second close season!

The problems of this are obvious but I must pay tribute to the staff and players who have trained throughout, but 3 training sessions a week can be a bit of a drag when it is the cut and thrust of a competitive match that is required. 

We are not alone of course as a number of clubs are as bad if not worse in terms of matches played, Witham have not even reached the halfway point.  With the league due to finish on April 26th the potential problems are plain to see.

I have to say I am astounded that the Ryman League have not looked at the bigger picture and extended the season accordingly.  I fact I was told this week that two forward thinking clubs had arranged to hire Harlow’s excellent 3G pitch to play a league game and it was blocked by the league themselves!  All that clubs like ourselves want is a level playing field (no pun intended) so how does playing Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday and then again Saturday suddenly become acceptable but moving a fixture to another venue is not allowed??

Moving on we have had a bit of movement at Needham recently, Jamie Guy has transferred to Heybridge and Lee Townrow has gone on loan to Witham for the rest of the season.  We wish these lads all the best.  Also departing is Ryan Melaugh who elected to return to Colchester United when his 3-month loan expired. 

Out of contract at the end of the year he felt he needed to be closer to the ‘mother ship’ to win a new contract and I hope the lad does.  He was tremendous when he was with us and if he is not lucky in his quest, his is a number I will ring in the Summer (unless of course we are still playing league games!!!).

Winter Break is over (hopefully?!)

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Well I would like to start by wishing all at Needham Market FC and all the readers of these Musings a very Happy New year.

It has been a little while since my last ‘words of wisdom’ and I suppose when the wonderful British winter weather kicks in denying us of our fix of football then the world of non-league pretty much shuts down!

In fact since I wrote last we have only managed two games, Burnham Ramblers on December 14th and Wroxham on January 1st.

Our last fixture at Bloomfields saw us lose our unbeaten home run in the cruelest of circumstances when Burnham Ramblers stole a winner in the last minute of the game.  These circumstances were made tough by being 8 players down at start of the match and then losing Ryan 'Spider' Charles who broke down in the warm up and then Coach Norfolk damaged his hamstring early in the second half meant we were scraping the barrel.

Still there was still time for a 'first' when Sam Thrower (who had worked himself into the ground) had cramp so bad he had to be carried of and was replaced up front by Munno!  Yes the Goalkeeping Coach Munno.

Our scorer in the 2-1 defeat was Luke Ingram with an excellent goal and I must give credit to all the lads as we had Richard Logan at Centre Half and new Striker Russell Malton playing left wing back.  Despite that everyone worked hard and we were at least worth the point if not all three.

As frustrating as it is to not be playing this enforced ‘winter break’ has allowed the Physio team of Denim and Jenkins to get players back.  In addition we have continued to find dry places to train and knowing that a game was to be played on New Years Day we were more than ‘up’ for it.

Mind you when I was driving up the A140 on my way to Trafford Park I thought there was no way we would play.  The rain lashed down and the wind was rocking my car surely this was an early April Fools joke?!  However on arrival the pitch was pretty good but would it hold up?  Well as it happens it did and played very well – all credit to the Yachtsman’s ground staff.

We welcomed back Kieran Morphew, Ollie Fenn, Sam Nunn, Darryl Coakley, Ian Westlake, Ryan Melaugh and Sheridan Driver plus there was a welcome to Luke Hammond who has joined us from Leiston for the rest of the season.  Luke is a player who has played many games for me at Leiston and AFC Sudbury; he is comfortable in possession and will be good for us going forward.

The wind was blowing straight up the pitch and we played against it in the first half.  We had Russell Malton leading the line with Westy just in behind and we started like a train and Ryan Melaugh put us ahead after only 3 minutes.  We looked like a team desperately pleased to be playing again and were well on top.  Well until we lost possession on the edge of our box in the 12th minute and Sam Harty smashed home a great strike.  This did not deter us as we continued to push on.

To be fair we did so well against the wind it was a massive surprise it was only 1-1 at half-time; perhaps credit should go to Wroxham’s defence.  The second half was much of the same plus we squeezed higher up the pitch to pressure the Wroxham back line.  We pretty much battered our host’s goal and Ryan got another goal, Westy waded in with two and Adam Mills popped up with another goal with a great header following a Luke Ingram cross.  Wroxham did knick a goal back, which was a bit of a shame, but I was very happy with a 5-2 win.

RYAN MELAUGH OPENS THE SCORING ON NEW YEARS DAY

The performance was a very confident one, with great movement and it is a type of play that I want us to take forward.  We really need to crack on now and put pressure on the teams above us.  The rest of the season will be a real roller coaster ride I believe so strap yourself in and hold on!!

Leaving the club this week is Jamie Guy who is joining Heybridge Swifts.  It has not really worked out for Jamie, he has been a bit unlucky with injuries and maybe was not suited to our style of play.  From a personal point of view I really liked the lad and I am sure he will be good for the ‘Jodie Brown’ revolution taking place at Scraley Road.

There is a strong possibility that we will be adding to the squad over the next week or so but my target addition requires a few hoops to jump through so I would just say ‘watch this space’.

ON A DECENT RUN

Written by Mark Morsley on .

As we move into a crucial part of the season we entertained Maldon & Tiptree 10 days ago for a key game in the promotion push.  Maldon, like us, have had a mixed bag of results but with the game important for both teams it was a match I was looking forward to.

On a heavy pitch the game started at quite a pace and both teams had chances in the early stages with our guests probably having the better of these exchanges.  It was no surprise when ex Marketman Aaron Condon opened the scoring mid-way through the first half.

Our reaction was a good one with a change in formation helping this and certainly for the rest of the half we were on the front foot.  We carried this theme on after half-time and carved open a number of chances early in the second half.  Unfortunately this progress was halted when Darryl Coakley received his second yellow card and was sent to the showers.

 We had a bit of a reshuffle which gave Maldon their best period of the second half but our determination to get back into the game turned things around and we pressed on.  Chances came and chances went, it was looking like one of those days.

The turning point was the introduction of debutant Adam Mills following the Referee leveling things up by showing Danny Johnson a second yellow.  Millsy has been getting good reviews from the Academy staff and he certainly ‘stepped up to the plate’, his first run left 2 Maldon defenders in their wake and this injection of youthful exuberance gave us an extra edge.

With time running out and the Blues defending deeper and deeper Millsy picked up the ball wide and blasted a shot that was goal bound until Centre Half Harrison saved the ball on the line giving us a penalty.  The debacle that followed this summed up the most inept refereeing performance I have seen for years, as the red card was shown to Jay Nash the No 9 instead of the No 6!!

Anyway Jamie Guy stepped up to take the penalty but Jason Willis did what he had done all afternoon and made an excellent save!!  Not to be out done though from nowhere Millsy appeared again and smashed the ball into the net – Well done young man!!

Will the real Darryl Coakley stand up?

It was the minimum we deserved I felt and again showed our desire to not be beaten.  We would need that on the following Tuesday night against Brentwood Town.

The Sky Blues have had a tough season, which resulted in a change of manager with Les Whitton giving way to Danny Dafter and Adam Flannagan.  This had brought an improvement in performances and they came to us on the back of a 4-1 victory at Wroxham.

To be honest this game was not only a really poor one, we were really up against a number of issues on the night that again tested our resolve.  Richard Logan made his debut for us and was probably one of the plusses on the night, particularly in the second half.  In short we had the vast majority of the possession but by halftime we had lost Ian Westlake and Jamie Guy to hamstring injuries and Lee Townrow to an early bath.

Despite that we still had all the play with a player short but just lacked any punch in the final third so the 0-0 scoreline was not a surprise.

Going to Ware last Saturday the target was simple, just get the win and get it comfortably.  We played with a 3-pronged attack of Loges, Ryan Crisp and Spider Charles (who would have a great game!) and had a great, very positive start.

Crispy put us in front following Spider and Coaks combining well to cross the ball where a Crisp shot from Crisp (sounds like a Walkers advert?!?!) nestled nicely into the bottom corner.  We doubled our lead 20 minutes later with another great cross from Coaks that Crispy again smashed home.

During the break leading by the 2 goals we knew that playing up the Ware slope would be different.  The half started with The Blues showing a bit more invention and they pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.

This kicked us into action again and with Kem Izzet driving us on from midfield we scored again 6 minutes later through that man Coakley who was more than making up for his under par match against Maldon the previous week.  From this point we kept the ball well and in the end it was a comfortable win that we more than deserved.

This little run has brought us to the edge of the play off positions and fits in with my aim for a gradual improvement as our new team continues to ‘gel’.  I understand the frustration from some of our supporters at the Brentwood match; I have already stated it was poor.  The message I would have to all our excellent fans is that we are on a journey, which is about evolution not revolution.  If we are to take the club forward this will be done following a process and in year one it is building a team that has the right attitude and desire, experience to help the younger lads and legs to help the old gits!!  Our target was to make the play offs this season and I believe we are on track so keep the faith!

This week we have added another striking option with Russell Malton joining us from Heybridge Swifts.  Russ is a lad I have monitored for a while since his release from Colchester United.  He has just turned 23 and has agreed a deal for this year and next which I believe will be longer than that as he is a great lad with the right attitude. I would like to register my thanks to Heybridge Swifts Director of Football Wayne Bond who conducted himself in a totally professional way in this transfer.

It was great to see that Brightlingea Regent get through in the FA Vase in addition to their successful first season in Thurlow Nunn Prem Division.  I am really pleased for their manager James Webster as he has worked hard and the club has really come on in recent years.  Great also for my old centre-half Kev Hughes, who was with me at Needham and Sudbury.  One of the best defenders I ever worked with and a top man. 

I also really pleased for Brantham Athletic (my local team) for an excellent win on Saturday to also get into the Vase last 32.  Well done to Paul ‘Abes’ Abrahams and Steve Downey and to my great mate Chairman Pete Crowhurst.  I witnessed their incredibly victory against Whitney Bay last season plus they gave us a hell of a game in the FA Cup this year.  Best wishes as well to the other local team Hadleigh United who are also through and are probably one of the favourites.  I really hope that I can watch one of these teams in a Wembley showpiece final.

I would like to finish by wishing my old mate and ex head coach Steve Ball all the best in his career as manager at Leiston.  I made no secret of my feelings regarding Steve Pitt dismissal but that has now gone and I feel that Bally is a decent choice as is his selection to bring in Robbie Bate as his number 2.  Rob will be the solid part of the duo, well organised and a really good guy. 

As for Steve, we had so many great times together at Leiston, so many laughs and he is as ‘mad as a hatter’.  However he is also a football man through and through, I hope he develops into a good manager.  He knows his old ‘Gaffer’ is always available for a chat or a bit of advice if required.

HAPPY DAYS - I ALWAYS HAD THE BETTER TASTE IN SHIRTS!!!

Its a mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad world!

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Last Tuesday night we progressed to the Semi-Final of the Suffolk Premier Cup at the expense of Hadleigh United.  The Brettsiders are having an excellent season this year and I was expecting them to give us a stern test.  I took the opportunity to give the lads from Saturday’s bench a run and also looked at a 3-4-3 formation.  On the night we were somewhat better than our guests and in fact I don't believe that Plums actually had a shot in anger to deal with.  Our front 3 of Jamie Guy, ‘Spider’ Charles and Sam Thrower were causing plenty of issues for Hadleigh's experienced defence and with Ian Westlake joining up from midfield we were a pretty formidable force going forward.  Darryl Coakley opened the scoring following a slide rule pass from Westy and then Jamie plundered a second.  To be fair to Hadleigh they did have a good spell of possession for the final 15 minutes of the half but we kept things pretty tight.

The second half followed very much the same pattern with our ability to keep possession a lot better than Hadleigh's with their frustration at the way the game has gone plain to be seen.  Jamie Guy finished off a fine personal performance with his second and our third.  I know the Brettsider's Manager Stuart Crawford well and he was very complimentary, I know that he will take the plusses from the game and I feel sure they will go one to win the Thurlow Nunn Premier League title this year.

Last Saturday we travelled to the salubrious surroundings of Waltham Abbey FC for a key league game.  It is important that we find a little bit of consistency going forward to try and get some points on the board as we are slightly off the Div One pace.  The Abbots started this season very well but have hit a bit of wall in recent games, but they are still a team that work hard and on a tough pitch can be a real handful.  On the day we probably picked the tallest back four we could with Ollie Fenn dropping into right back and with Skipper Driver in the defensive hole gave us the opportunity to have a really solid feel.  

We started well and Ryan Crisp opened the scoring with a fine left footed strike from the edge of the box.  Our hosts had started with a back 3 but with our wide men Ryan Melaugh and Luke Ingram getting a lot of joy down the sides a switch was inevitable which for a time gave us a bit to deal with.  After hitting the post with a fine free kick Kem Izzet put us 2-0 up from the penalty spot after Westy was upended in the Abbots box.

Soon after the task ahead for Waltham Abbey was made worse when the experienced Tom Bruno went over the top of a tackle leaving Ingers in a lot of pain.  The referee, who would have an excellent game, had little choice than show a straight red card. At half-time it was important to remind the lads of the importance of being solid which we were and it was no surprise that Westy whipped a fine left footed shot in from 20 yards to make the win a formality.  A real plus from this game was that both Ace Howells and Brendan Heath from our Academy joined the second half for their league debuts and really showed what fine prospects they are.  Ace showed a great touch and movement and I don’t think Brendan misplaced a pass for the 20 minutes he played – WELL DONE KEVIN HORLOCK!!!

Last night we welcomed Tilbury to Bloomfields for another Ryman League match which having lost 3-0 away in the FA trophy I knew was going to be a tough one.  The Dockers manager Paul Vaughan has done a great job turning them into regular play off candidates, he is one of the real characters of the non-league game (more on characters shortly) and I knew his team would be well motivated.

With loanee Ryan Crisp suffering from a hamstring injury, Jamie Guy was given the opportunity to re-cement his place in the team – he would have an excellent game.  I have to say that, bearing in mind that our pitch was very heavy, our performance in the first half was one of the best this season.  We totally dominated possession and from one of a number of incisive moves Jamie opened the scoring.

If there was one fault I would throw at my team it was that we were only 1-0 up at half-time when really our dominance should have gleaned more goals.  I know the Dockers would be a different proposition in the second period and so they were.  A change of system and personnel plus the loss of our influential Ryan Melaugh to injury caught us out a bit and they got back into the game early in the second half. 

The game was very much on a knife edge and with Darryl Coakley being pushed forward and Kieron Morphew returning to the team albeit in a unfamiliar left back position our shape just was not right.  A switch to a 4-4-2 allowed the Coakley/Westy and Morph/Ingram wide combinations to give us a bit more cut and thrust plus Ollie Fenn joined Jamie of the front line.

We had a let of soon after this switch when a rasping shot from the Dockers hit both bar ad post but came out and maybe that fired us into action again.  We regained the lead when Lee Townrow got onto a Kem Izzet delivery and soon after with us calling the shots Jamie got his second and our third.  There was still time for Towns to get his second goal, but unfortunately it was in the wrong net!!

At the end of this match I felt that we had performed well and showed that after a set back and a real loss of direction we regrouped to win what was an excellent game.  This is the third game on the trot that we have scored 3 goals and lets hope this continues, certainly our approach play should give us every chance.

"4 goals in 2 starts Gaffer" 

Management in non-league football can at times be an interesting experience with many skills needed to deal with all that can be thrown at you.  There is real camaraderie between a lot of us and there are plenty that talk to me and vice versa on a regular basis.  In many ways having these contacts is what make the football world go around; someone to chat to during a tough period and someone to enjoy the crack when things are going well.

Steve Pitt is one of these guys and I have enjoyed with him his recent successes.  Always about for a chat to exchange views, many years of experience and without a doubt the guy with more football contacts than anyone I know.  He is also a proper bloke and I like him immensely.  He was an important part of Rod Stringers team at Bishops Stortford this year, turned Stanway Rovers into a force in the Ridgeons Premier Division winning the League Cup on the way and his successes at Wivenhoe Town some years back are the stories of legends.

When he was appointed to manage the club that I had my most successful and thoroughly enjoyable years in my management career at I was really pleased for him.  With his two-year deal I knew that in time he would mould that team into one that would maintain their Ryman Premier Division status this year and push on next year.

Last night driving home he contacted me to say that he had been sacked following the 4-1 win at Lowestoft – I nearly crashed my car!!  His stats run as follows:- P7 W3 D2 L2 (the defeats were away to Kingstonian who are top and Wealdstone who are 3rd).  Has the world gone mad?? I thought that normally the manager get the bullet following a run of defeats?? 

The man was working his a**e of to improve things at ‘his’ club and he has been treated like this, well I am sorry but it is a disgrace.  I wait with baited breath to hear the ‘official’ line but knowing Steve’s side (which will remain with me) and knowing that what he says is right I can only say it’s a decision that is up there with changing the colour of the Cardiff 1st choice kit and renaming Hull City!!

I look forward to seeing where Steve emerges next and I for one dearly hope that he gains the level of success he deserves.

Just to add that these Musings are my words and opinions alone. 

"Crisis what crisis? The only time there will be a crisis is when we run out of wine in the boardroom!!"

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Well it might be considered that currently we are going through a bit of a sticky period. If you look at the stats it would say that in the past seven games we have managed one win and one draw which actually is a pretty dismal run of performances.

Now all of us want to see our team win and certainly up until the FA Cup draw that paired us with Cambridge United our season had seen us on the crest of a wave. However it would seem that the circus around the now infamous battle with the U’s in front of our biggest ever crowd has caused a bit of a rift in our season.

It is easy to take that approach but I believe that it is the weak manager who looks for excuses for his team’s performances and that is something that I am not prepared to do. Of course ‘that’ match was a great day and we ran them close with a performance that I was proud off from my players but anyone who thinks that is what is behind this slump is deluding themselves.

What has happened is the Manager, the players and the staff have not been good enough – simple. We have not been as hard to beat as we were and that is down to the fact that we have not worked hard enough on the pitch and we have not passed the ball as well as I would have liked. This has allowed teams to get into games that we were not letting them into a few games ago. It has to stop and it will!

Yes we have had injuries but an injury is the chance for another player to cement his place in the team. Have we had those performances? No we have not and that is why I am having a really hard look at my playing staff.

In our defence it is important to point out that we are only 3 months into a season where the whole team has been changed. In fact the only player in the 1st team squad who started in my first game last season is Ollie Fenn. That means that there is a building process that is continuing and as a part of that will be initial period where things don’t run smoothly.

Rome was not built in a day and a good team doesn’t become a bad one over night, don’t you just love a clique?? But the fact is there’s a long way to go and we will keep looking for the right combination to get us on that run that I know we have got in us.

I would say though that last Saturdays performance at Cheshunt was one that gave me great pleasure. On a very heavy pitch against a very aggressive team who had won 5 out of the previous 7 we pretty much controlled things. Of course they had their moments and certainly there was a 20 minute period in the second half when we were pinned back in our own half. However with some belief and good positive wing play from Messrs.’ Ingram and Melaugh got us back in the game and allowed Sam Thrower to score the third goal that sealed a decent result. For the record Jamie Guy and Ollie Fen were our other scorers.

The previous week we had experienced the 4G pitch at Harlow and what a great surface it was. Although there is substantial cost in the laying of this surface I can imagine that there will be more teams who play at Step 3 or below (this is the levels that this surface is allowed) that will take this option.

'PRETTY SLICK' The Harlow 4G pitch

Once laid the maintenance it pretty low, usage options are massively increased so therefore are revenues so the large outlay, if its viewed as a business proposition, it is a no-brainer. As I say I can see more of this surface arriving in non-league football.

The match was actually a decent game of football and the surface certainly suited our style of play. The first half was pretty much domineered by us but we could not find that elusive goal. In the second half I must give Harlow a bit of credit as they made a couple of changes and found some space in areas that we just never dealt with. Two quick goals put them in a strong position and despite Skipper Driver pulling a late goal back it was too little too late.

Our most recent encounter was at Thurrock on Tuesday night and it was a game very much of two half’s. I do not agree with the very black description by our Scribe, yes for 25 minutes The Rocks were far better than us but after they scored I felt we played really well until we got into the final third.

The second half was all about us and we restricted our hosts to a few counter attacks. I introduced Spider Charles and Sam Thrower up front in the second half and their youthful enthusiasm had a real impact in all areas apart from our inability to again score. We did enough to win this game in all areas apart from the one that matters and that again was a massive disappointment. It is difficult to criticise the lads as we played a lot of good football its just that lack of ‘cut and thrust’ that is missing.

There have been some changes in personal this week with Dave Wareham leaving the club. Dave is a guy who I have grown to really like but I feel that there are areas of the team that I need to shake up and, as hard as it was, I have made this decision about him. There is no doubt that he will be a fine addition to wherever he decides to apply his trade next.

Coming into the building is Ryan Crisp on loan from Leiston and my thanks go to Steve Pitt, the Leiston Supremo, in this deal. I tracked Ryan in the Summer as I felt he would be a good addition to my squad but he decided against coming our way. His time at Victory Road has not gone as well as he would have hoped so I am pleased he is with us, for how long however remains to be seen, but I believe it will be a good move for both parties.

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