MM Header

The futures bright – the futures red!!

Written by Mark Morsley on .

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.

….and so the adventure ends

Written by Mark Morsley on .

The much anticipated Cambridge United match arrived on Saturday and for un it was everything we expected apart from maybe not getting the right result.  I could probably write pages and pages regarding the game but I will try to condense it down somewhat. 

I must start by paying immense tribute to all the people who made sure the massive challenge on dealing with a huge crowd went off without too much of a hitch.  I could not believe the size of the crowd when I came out for the start of the game and I must thank the Cambridge fans of which there was in the region of 1000.  In addition though it was great that we had such a large following ourselves, which made it a real FA Cup classic atmosphere.

On the game itself, I believe that losing Sam Newson after 40 minutes was a massive blow to us as we had gone toe to toe with the U’s and the fact that we had stopped the noise from the Cambridge contingent told its own story.  All credit to my staff as we had prepared correctly and all the lads took on board their responsibilities fully.  If there was one thing missing it was that little bit of luck that ‘David’ needed against ‘Goliath’ when if one of the early chances that we had had gone in it would have made an interesting twist in the match.

Sam Newson whose injury was a massive blow to the marketmen

The second half was a story where we had not got enough good possession to continue with the attacking play that we had in the first half.  This allowed our guests to have more influence on the game, particularly when they felt the need to introduce star powerhouse striker Adam Cunnington.  

As the pressure grew so did the commitment of our defenders plus of course James Shea in goal who pulled of a number of remarkable saves.  In the end the pressure told and the one time we gave Cunnington a bit of space he headed home.

Still with only 10 minutes to go it was our turn to have a go with our returning Skipper Sheridan Driver entering the frame to protect the back four we pushed on.  It was now the U’s defenders who threw their bodies on the line blocking two Ian Westlake shots and then in the final moments our big chance fell to Sam Nunn but he couldn’t quite direct it into the goal and as it crept past the post so did our FA Cup for this season.

Still it has been an adventure and we have continued to entertain the increasing crowds through the competition but now it is back to our main aim that is getting into the Ryman Premier Division. 

I want to finish by paying special tribute to our No1 goalkeeper Andy Plummer.  I told him last week that I was going with James Shea due to my concerns on his lack of match fitness.  Although desperately disappointed he continued to work hard and support the team from his position on the bench on Saturday.  That attitude exemplifies what type of squad we have which is one reason why I know for the rest of this season we will give it our all to achieve our number one aim.

The FA Cup - sponsored by……………..

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Is there a game on Saturday??

Written by Mark Morsley on .

Sitting at my desk thinking about what I should write this week has been a very different experience from previously which I suspect is no real surprise as the past 10 days of the FA Cup circus has taken our eye of the main target for this season, that being achieving a play off place that may lead to promotion.  However saying that I can fully understand that some of our lads have played and trained with one eye on Saturdays match and I tell you what, I don’t blame them!

It is a long time since I was in a smaller skin and played the game but I can still remember how certain games in a season caught my imagination and also took my eye of some of the games I played in.  In my years as a non-league manager I have been in similar situations to this and in the build up I have tried various ways or getting performances out of my players.  Threats of being dropped, hitting them with fines, throwing tea cups around the dressing room all have been tried and all have failed.

My take on this current situation is that it is to be enjoyed to the full and that is certainly what we will all be doing.  It is going to be tough, well in reality it is going to be a hell of a lot more than tough but you know what it is the FA Cup and in this great competition the underdog is a good position to be in because you never know; you just never know.

So what about Cambridge United?  Well they are doing Ok in their league (Pl16 W11 D6 L0 F25 A6 Pts 38) gulp!!  Champions in the making, I think so in fact I hope so.  Cambridge should have a league club and despite City and Histon flirting with thoughts of achieving it, United are the one.  They have the ground, the support and the history and by the looks of it a decent manager!

So what about the match, well I thought I would engage in a little prediction competition with myself trying to work their team out, see how I do:-

System 4-3-1-2







The U's Captain Ian 'Dusty' Miller. Proof that outstanding non-league players can make it in the Pro game

So what about us and how have our preparations being going?  Well we took part in a pretty unforgettable match at Redbridge on Saturday where our unbeaten league records came to an end.  Not many teams manage to remain unbeaten throughout the season and I never thought we would I just hoped that when the defeat came it would have been in better circumstances.

However as I eluded to earlier minds may have been elsewhere because it was a game that we should have won, particularly by opening the scoring with a great move and a Kem Izzet strike and having three or four decent 1st half chances.  But it wasn’t to be and we take it on the chin and look for the appropriate reaction in our next league match away at Harlow.

Unless Cambridge hold us to a draw on Saturday next Tuesday we meet Leiston in the League Cup.  Now there’s a story but I think I will save that for Mondays Musings as I think there is far more to think about this week and also I really cannot get to excited about the League Cup even if it is my old team.

I would like to finish by paying tribute to all those at the club who have done so much in preparation for this historic match.  I have lost count how many phone calls I have had from members of the matchday team but you know every one has been welcomed.  When the crowds have gone and we are looking forward to Sundays draw it will be those hardy souls who will be clearing the mess and getting ready for the next match and for them we as a squad will do our best to make them proud.

FA Cup fever strikes Bloomfields

Written by Mark Morsley on .

When I last sat at my desk tapping away at my keyboard putting together my Musings I am not sure that the next few days were going to be quite as eventful as they have (and that is probably a massive understatement).

I would start by explaining the scene in my office at 11:00am on Monday morning where we were tuned into Talksport awaiting the FA Cup draw.  Members of my staff and a mate where transfixed by the sounds of Colin Murray offering snippets of info on each club as their name came out of the legendary velvet bag! 

“Number 19” “Needham Market” and Murray said his little bit which for us waiting lasted forever, ‘shut the **** up Colin’ went through my head, then we heard “CAMBRIDGE UNITED”!!  Everyone looked at me and I punched the air, “what a bloody great draw!!” was my first poignant comment, words of wisdoms I am sure you will agree.

Sam at the Bury Free Press narrowly beat the EADT on the phone for the initial thoughts of a manager who was already looking for the next CUFC fixture.  It was quite a morning and in fact it has been quite a week since that moment.  This game will be as much a challenge for the football team as the club as a whole.  But I can assure you that there are few better operations in non-league football than is operated by my club and planning is well underway.

It wasn’t long after the draw however when I had to get myself ready for a very important league game at Aveley on Monday evening.  Having got experience of the build up to big cup games and the circus that we will be embroiled in for the next 12 days, I know better than most that the next 3 league games are all ones where we can pick up points towards our main season aim this season.  We will not win the FA Cup but we can get promoted!

I cannot offer high enough praise to my players and staff on Monday night.  Missing Andy Plummer, Sheridan Driver, Kieron Morphew, Dave Wareham, Ian Westlake, Jamie Guy and we were playing 2 days after an epic match against AFC Sudbury; to say we were stretched would be an understatement.  Add to that Sam Nunn gets a slightly harsh straight red card early in the second half following a tough and tight first period that was scoreless.

 I believed we still could win the game and was not going to park the preverbal bus in front of our goal, so the back four became a three and we pushed on.  Aveley then scored but we were not to be knocked back and our lads worked their socks off.  If our unbeaten league run finishes it wont be because we haven’t shown masses of belief in each other and what we are trying to achieve.

We outplayed the Millers and the woodwork as well as a number of desperate bouts of defending kept us out until the master poacher Sam Newson pounced to level things up.  From that point we went for the win with no thoughts of hanging on for the draw but the goal just didn’t come.  I suppose Aveley will feel they deserved the draw and maybe that was about right.  From my point of view when you consider what had happened over the two days on and off the field I was proud of how the players performed.  It again shows what a special bunch of players we have and what a great squad it is to be a part of.

Of course the catalyst to all the excitement stems from the match on Saturday against local rivals AFC Sudbury where the victory got us into the velvet bag on Monday morning.  I have a great affection for AFC; I spent two of my happiest years in non-league football at Kings Marsh with great successes and still have many good friends there.  I have been in the opposition dugout on many occasions and each game has its own story, this one was no different.

Both teams had key players injured, one of ours being our keeper Plums but as mentioned previously James Shea came into our building and would have a fine game.  This was a match where there were contrasting styles; Dave Batch has been very successful with his more direct pressing style and us who are more patient and pass the ball with possession being our game.

In the first half although we started brightly I think that Sudbury had the better of the play and although we had forced Alex Archer into three outstanding goals (I felt that Alex was the best player on the pitch) we had not done enough and although there were no goals we really had a bit to do.

At half-time it was my belief that we needed to be braver on the ball and play more through our midfield trio.  Right from the kick off we did that and managed to get Luke Ingram and Dave Wareham in good wide positions.  From this start I believe we put down the marker that would win us the game.  A sweeping six-pass move ended up with Ingers hitting a great shot that took a deflection to beat Archer in the AFC goal.  A bit of luck to finish of a great move but we were happy to take it.

Luke Ingram who opened the scoring in the AFC match

I was happy with how we continued to play and kept our guests away from creating much in their final third.  Our second goal came in the 87th minute and you can only describe it as a piece of class.  Another sweeping move saw News put Westy in for a deft chip that gave us a two-goal lead.  See the game out was the requirement but credit to Sudbury as they poured forward with Greg Crane causing a bit of mayhem and a mistimed tackle gave them a penalty lifeline that was duly dispatched.

I was pleased with our reaction to this as we kept possession for the remaining few minutes to register a fine win that I believe we just about deserved.  Saying that AFC gave us a real tough game and they got their tactics right for the first half.  Thankfully however our improvement in the second half was the catalyst to our victory, which as I have said has set up this mouthwatering encounter with The U’s.

This coming weekend we have a fixture change as Thurrock play in the FA Trophy so we are off to Barkingside to play Redbridge.  This is a important match with the majority of our fellow promotion candidates also in the Trophy so it is key that we are all focused on putting in a performance and trying to bring 3 points along the A12 on Saturday evening.

Thurlow Nunn League MembersThurlow Nunn

Ryman League MembersRyman