Surgery likely for Sands

SIDELINED: Needham striker John Sands
SIDELINED: Needham striker John Sands

Ryman League Premier Division leaders Needham Market’s goal-machine John Sands looks likely to have to undergo an operation to sort out a troublesome knee injury.

But assistant manager Richard Wilkins does not believe it will rule out the player, who has scored eight times in 16 appearances this term, for long.

Sands, who won the division’s Golden Boot in 2012/13 with his 26-goal haul for Bury Town, has not played for the last three matches, with Emmanuel Osei’s exit leaving wingers Reece Dobson and Luke Ingram to lead the line — a move which has admittedly seen both flourish.

But 29-year-old Sands looks set to be having to watch on from the sidelines for a while yet.

“He is struggling a bit with his knee and it might be cartilage,” revealed Wilkins.

“He is going to have a scan to see what the extent is.

“He tried it a few games ago but he struggled and we have to get it sorted as soon as possible.

“I think it will require a bit of keyhole and be a week or two. They are quite quick and easy nowadays, so hopefully he will be out for a week or two.”

Needham, who finished one place above the drop zone last season, increased their advantage at the top of the table to three points on Boxing Day with a hard-fought 2-1 derby victory over 10-man AFC Sudbury, which left Wilkins praising the side’s character.

And ahead of another two quick-fire games, at mid-table Billericay Town tonight (7.45pm), before another Suffolk derby, this time at fifth-placed Leiston on Monday (3pm), he believes the squad is yet to hit top gear.

“Billericay away and Leiston away are going to be very tough games, we know that,” he said. “But we are just enjoying it at the moment.

“We can get better. It is a young team at the minute with a bit of experience there in Danny Gay, Ian Miller and Muzzy (Kem Izzet), but it is very important we take each game as it comes along and keep learning.”

Needham are just one point away from the 50 Wilkins said was still their main season target only the week before last, but along with manager Mark Morsley, he will not be letting the players get carried away.

“We are enjoying it up the top there but we know it is going to be very difficult to stay in that top five,” he said.

“But we will keep taking each game as it comes along and, hopefully, bring in a new player or too to strengthen the squad, and who knows where it can take us.”