After having an excellent run in November and December I suspect that many of people around Bloomfield’s possibly felt we had got to grips with Ryman Premier Division football. In fact, in many ways the levels of our performances and the excellent wins we had achieved that would be a reasonable assumption. However, that is a dangerous thing to do at this level and as I write these notes we are probably a bit too close to the bottom 4 places for comfort.
We do need to take confidence from that run which gleaned us 19 points out of a possible 21, plus a fine win at Walsham le Willows has lined up a mouthwatering Suffolk FA Premier Cup semi-final with my old team Leiston. This round of the competition is played at a neutral venue and I am pleased that we will be able to grace the excellent new pitch facilities at AFC Sudbury. With that particular club involved I am sure the script writers are sharpening their pencils!
Sudbury's excellent 3G playing surface - Venue for the eagerly awaited Needham v Leiston SPC Semi-Final on Tuesday 8th March 2015
I really should mention the best performance of the season so far, that being the 1-0 victory away to league leaders Dulwich Hamlet. In front of a huge crowd we gave them a lesson in ball retention and counter attack football. The goal itself was a great example of this when we sucked our hosts in and then broke with real pace and purpose allowing Jay Davies to score with a fine header.
We had a couple of other decent chances which more than balanced out Dulwich’s greater possession which, in the main, ended up with wayward long range shots. There was one outstanding strike that Danny Gay did remarkably well to get the faintest of touches to divert the pile driver onto the bar.
Danny Gay - has been a great signing since rejoining the club
The change in our fortunes came in the home fixture against Enfield Town when we were really poor and a 3-2 defeat actually flattered us. The Towners adapted far better on the very heavy surface and looked far better than their league position suggested. They came out of the blocks like a train and battered us.
I was looking forward immensely to returning to Victory Road on Boxing Day to face Leiston. It was really great to catch up with a few people at the club and to have a chat with a number of the excellent supporters there. On the pitch however we were well beaten by a far better side. Having the experience at this level is huge and part of our education is to gain that experience going forward. With the Blues now an established side in the division they very much used that to their advantage.
Richard Wilkins had them prepared, he had done his homework (as he always does) and they took advantage of the wind by giving us a bit of a lesson. I would add that we possibly didn't help ourselves with some unforced errors but nevertheless it is all about taking the chances when they present themselves and that is what our hosts done; the 3-0 defeat was about right.
A thoughtful Wilks - his Leiston team were too good for us on Boxing Day
Postponements have played their part as has the amount of rain that has made our home pitch a bit of a leveler. Nevertheless, we have started leaking goals and that is an issue that we need, collectively, to change.
I would add that it has not been all bad in 2016 and a home victory against Leatherhead was a key 3 points. This was not a classic game by any means and very much a game of two half’s; we being a lot better and deserving to be 1-0 up from the first half and possibly we rode our luck a bit in the second half. However, we have played better in games and lost so in many ways, you hope, these things even themselves out.
In fact, we have suffered in two matches where we have been outstanding for parts of the game and not got anything for our efforts. Bognor Regis away was a perfect example of this. For the first 20 minutes we were battered and were fortunate to only be losing by 1-0 but after Michael Brothers equalised for us we were brilliant!
On an excellent surface, despite torrential rain, our football was a joy to behold. We dominated possession and created a number of half chances but the two gilt edged opportunities that we forged and missed, would be a turning point.
An excellent period of passing saw the ball crossed into the box and well struck by Jay only for the keeper to somehow stick a leg out and put the chance over the bar. Another great cross from Jordan Patrick following a spell of patient build up play was well met by the towering Bruvs only to see it just go over the bar. These missed chances would be our undoing as the proverbial sucker punch hit us as a long range shot went in off our post.
JP who second half performance at Bognor was the best from him this season
Despite losing however, on the long journey home, I was proud of my team and the football we played. I really believe, despite a recent bad run, we are not a millions miles away, so long as well tighten things up on the goals against column.
Our match away at Kingstonian was a prime example of this. Playing at the excellent AFC Wimbledon ground we started very well with long passages of passing keeping out hosts very much on the back foot. It was no surprise that Jay gave us the lead and at half-time the only thing missing was a few more goals.
Ingers who scored our second at Kingstonian
Expecting a reaction from the K's we set about our task again but managed to miss a number of great chances until Luke Ingram put us 2-0 up. This was where a bit of naivety kicked in and when we should have been digging in to deal with our hosts starting the game with possession, at a time that is renowned as when a team is at its most vulnerable, we just opened up to allow our lead to be halved.
This was a pivotal moment in the game as we just lost our way and capitulated conceding 3 further goals to give the result a slant that really did not tell the whole story. I have to say, as nice as it is to receive compliments, I am getting a bit tired of opposition managers saying how well we have played and how we should not be in the position we are. Well that maybe the case for half of our game but to make sure we maintain our Ryman Premier status we are going to have to start achieving zero goals against, soon!
Over the past couple of weeks, we have welcomed a new player to the club and said goodbye to one. Joining the Marketmen is midfielder Billy Holland from Ipswich Wanderers. Bill has done really well at Humber Doucy Lane and I firmly believe he will make the step up with us.
However, leaving us is Jay Davies (below) who is off to Australia and that is a bit of a blow. Having worked hard to get Jay in to play in the 'No 10' role in our change of formation losing him is a bit of a disappointment. At his best he made us tick and waded in with some crucial goals. However, as they say, as one door closes another one opens and this will give the opportunity to another member of the squad to step into his role. We wish him all the best in this 'adventure'.
The local ‘jungle drums’ have picked up on ‘one of our own’ being involved in an Ipswich Town Under 21’s game on Monday. Keiran Morphew performed very well in a central defensive position against QPR in a game played at Playford Road. Having been involved in a very small part in his development I was personally proud to witness this game and see the level of his performance. Town have looked at him before and he certainly is a great prospect and a great lad.
What happens next will be down to Keiran and the Town coaching staff. We as a club will give him every opportunity and support him fully, as we always do with the lads who have come through our excellent academy and been given a chance at Pro level.
What off course is comical and frankly slightly embarrassing is where certain media outlets start talking money and fees.
I want to make abundantly clear that this type of reporting is unprofessional, unnecessary and without the slightest bit of foundation. We are a club who are proud of our links with both Ipswich Town and Colchester United. That relationship is something a number of us at Needham have forged over a few seasons and is based on mutual respect. We do not operate in the world of sensationalism!
Hey Gaffer!! Is this how I do it?!?!?!
This coming weekend we travel to Lewes for the proverbial six-pointer. Our first league victory in this our first season at Step 3, came in the home game so we need to be focused and ready for what will be a challenging afternoon.
All the best