TWO late goals in the space of four days saw Needham Market drop two points and then earn two, leaving manager Danny Laws satisfied with his side’s start to the year.
Maldon & Tiptree scored a late penalty on Saturday to deny the Marketmen a 2-1 success, only for Danny Thrower to pop up with a last-gasp winner at Heybridge Swifts on Tuesday.
Although his side enjoyed an unbeaten start to the year, Laws insists they must improve for a run that sees them play twice a week right through until March 12.
“Rustiness can no longer be an excuse because we’ve had two games now,” he said. “No-one has reached the heights in those two games, apart from the most outstanding player on the pitch against both Maldon and Heybridge, who was Danny Gay.
“He is a big reason why we got four points from those two matches. There is no disrespect to the outfield players, they were just rusty.
“They will be disappointed with the last two games, which may seem harsh, but that’s reality.
“I put that down to having an enforced rest and the quicker we get back into a rhythm and routine, the better.”
Four points on their travels should also give Needham a confidence boost in their record on the road, with eight of their next 11 fixtures to be played away from Bloomfields.
Although the Marketmen will be squeezing 19 matches into the next nine weeks, Laws insists that his squad are more than capable of dealing with it.
“It’s not a problem because we’ll get into a good routine,” he said. “Players want to play and it will be nice to have that run of games if the weather stays fine.”
On Saturday (3pm), Needham host a side that inflicted their first Ryman League defeat upon them.
Tilbury won 3-2 at Chadsfields back on August 24, despite strikes from Sam Newson and Craig Parker.
“They deserved their victory that day,” conceded Laws. “However, we have learned lessons since then.”
On-loan striker Christy Finch (foot) is a major doubt, having also missed Tuesday’s win at Heybridge, while Needham are hopeful Dave Cannon, Rhys Henry and talisman Craig Parker would have completely shaken off illnesses.
Newson and Nathan Stone will be available once again having finally completed their suspensions during Saturday’s draw with Maldon & Tiptree.
n Needham also journey to Essex to visit Great Wakering on Tuesday (7.45pm).