On Tuesday we entertained Leiston FC in the Robert Dyas Isthmian League Cup. After the exertions of the Cambridge match on the Saturday and the relative lack of importance of this competition in our season, this was an opportunity for me to look at a number of options.
During the course of the season it is often difficult to get to see the potential that exists in our Academy. This is often due to having so many important games to play so if one of the youngsters have not made their mark during the pre-season programme it is unlikely they will be able to show up other than as a squad member.
However this option was afforded to me this week. I would point out that despite some members of the club thinking that a game against my old club might require a full strength team and an attempt to win the game, this issue never entered my mind. The fact that myself and my staff have got so much from not only giving out no fewer than 6 full 1st team debuts, we were also able to work on a previously untried system.
Leiston, under the control now of my old mates the two Steve’s (Pitt and Ball), quite rightly fielded the team that gained them their first win in 12 at East Thurrock on Saturday. They need to get some consistency as they try and push their way up the Ryman Premier Division table and this game allowed them to achieve that. For the record I firmly believe that they will maintain their Premier Division status as they have an excellent squad and management team. In the perfect footballing world I would hope that we met again twice in the league next season!!
Bally with the Ryman League Division One North trophy
On the game itself, the level of the football we played and movement was a real pleasure and if we had not gifted two goals to the Blues the match may have ended up being a lot closer. It was a real test for Jon Carver who played 90 minutes at the heart of a 3-man defence. I was rightly impressed how he recovered from his mistake that allowed ex Marketman Craig Parker an easy chance after 2 minutes.
He was given a tough test by me and overall he did pretty well; more to come from the big fella I believe. The man of match on the night was another debutant that being Sam Thrower who as a part of a 3 pronged attack showed great composure to equalize in the first half and really led the Leiston defence a merry dance on a number of occasions. Certainly the outstanding Danny Gay in the blues goal got his fingertips to a mesmerizing run from Sam that had left blue shirts desperately trying to get a tackle in; it would have been a goal to remember.
On the night I was also impressed with the other youngsters, Josh Strickland, Brendan Heath, Ace Howells, Danny Garrad and Ryan Charles who all will have benefitted from being a part of this match. It was also important that Skipper Sheridan Driver and Andy Plummer both came through unscathed after missing the previous month or so through injury.
For the record Leiston deservedly won 5-2 with the mercurial Parker grabbing a hat-trick, that was enjoyed by a number of the Needham fans for whom he was a real legend during his time here. For me it was great to catch up with Chairman Crisp and Vice Chairman Mayhew as well as another Needham legend Paul Collier, a few of the committee and fans and a lot of players I know well (as well as Pitty and Bally of course!!).
A familiar sight - a Craig Parker goal in his Needham days
Tonight we prepare for Saturdays game by training on a 3G pitch to get a bit of experience for the newly laid full size version at Harlow Town. It will be first time for me I have taken a team to play on this surface so I am sure it will be an interesting experience.
We are now focused on pushing on in the league with the only other consideration being the Suffolk Premier Cup against Hadleigh, which will hopefully be another chance to blood a few of Kevin Horlock’s starlets. On Saturday the Hawks will offer a real challenge for us but I feel that the squad are fully focused on the task ahead as am I.