A ROLLERCOASTER ride that could rival anything he is likely to encounter on holiday in Florida this summer is how Needham Market manager Danny Laws assessed his side’s campaign.
The Marketmen’s topsy-turvy season lived up to the old sporting adage, with the ride finally stopping in the Ryman League Division One North play-off final, following a narrow 1-0 defeat to Enfield Town.
“It was the biggest rollercoaster ride of a season I have ever been involved in,” admitted Laws.
“There were so many real lows throughout the season including the 5-0 home defeat by Leiston at a crucial time of the season, that was a real low.
“But there were also a lot of highs including our victory at Chatham away and also our excellent form over Christmas and Easter.
“I’m going to Florida on holiday this summer and I doubt there will be anything as eventful out there, hopefully that will be the last rollercoaster I have to go on this year.”
Eight wins in a row from mid October to late November, part of a 10-match unbeaten run, fired Laws’ charges to top of the league until injury to 36-goal leading marksman Sam Newson in the 1-0 defeat to Chatham Town in December coincided with a drastic loss of form.
Four defeats in their next five matches, including a 5-0 reverse to rivals Leiston at Bloomfields on Boxing Day, left the Needham faithful void of any festive cheer and looked to have threatened their promotion push.
However, January arrival Lee McGlone from Leiston and Danny Bloomfield took up the goalscoring mantle as Laws’ rejuvenated men recorded an unbeaten seven-game run, including five wins, to all but cement their top five finish.
This was confirmed with 2-0 win over Chatham Town in the penultimate match of the season to set up a semi-final encounter away at Tilbury, 90 minutes that would best encapsulate Needham’s whirlwind season.
Leading 2-1 going into the final moments, a final appearance looked all but assured until Eljay Worrell levelled an incredible 14 minutes into injury time to take the match into extra-time.
As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, Tilbury then snatched the lead before Newson came to fore, scoring twice, including a last-minute winner, to wrap up his hat-trick and take his side to one match from promotion.
However, that euphoria turned to despair just two days later as Walid Matata’s solitary strike secured Enfield promotion, ending Needham’s dreams of going up.
Despite ranking missing out on promotion after coming so close as his biggest disappointment of the season, Laws hailed the spirit of his players to get to that stage in such an eventful campaign.
“The biggest disappointment for me was the play-off defeat and missing out on automatic promotion,” he conceded.
“Despite that I was very proud of my players because at one point I didn’t know where the next win was going to come from and then we came within one game of being promoted.
“Going through that bad spell was one of the most difficult times I’ve had as a manger.
“Even after such a topsy-turvy season we managed to get to the play-off final which is a huge credit to the lads.
“The season could have finished on a high but it just wasn’t to be.”
Laws will now be hoping for a smoother ride next season as he aims to reach his target destination of promotion.