Wilkins: ‘A good season for Needham but it could have been an excellent one’

WING PLAY: Jack Simmons tries to beat Paul Konchesky. Picture: Ben Pooley
WING PLAY: Jack Simmons tries to beat Paul Konchesky. Picture: Ben Pooley
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Assistant manager Richard Wilkins has conceded that there is a tinge of disappointment when he reflects on Needham Market’s Ryman League Premier Division campaign.

The Marketmen saw their slim play-off hopes ended during Saturday’s final game of 2016/17 against Billericay Town, who ran out 2-1 winners at Bloomfields.

ON TARGET: John Sands equalises for Needham against Billericay. Picture: Ben Pooley

ON TARGET: John Sands equalises for Needham against Billericay. Picture: Ben Pooley

It was a result that saw Mark Morsley’s men finish the season in ninth position —a far cry from 12 months ago when they only just secured their Step Three status after a long battle.

However, having spent a considerable portion of the season within the top five — only to drop out late on — Wilkins admitted to having mixed feelings.

“I look at it in two ways,” said Wilkins, who will replace Morsley as manager following the conclusion of the Suffolk Premier Cup final on Monday, May 8.

“On the one hand, had we been offered ninth at the start of the season, we would have been happy to take that.

HEADS UP: Luke Ingram attempts to flick the ball on. Picture: Ben Pooley

HEADS UP: Luke Ingram attempts to flick the ball on. Picture: Ben Pooley

“But when you have been in the top five for so long — only to run out of steam —there is a little bit of disappointment.

“It has been a good season regardless of the end, but a top-five finish would have made it an excellent season.

“We had the chance to make it an excellent season, but the last 10 games have not gone our way.”

While Wilkins remains focussed on the upcoming cup final against Lowestoft Town at Colchester United’s Community Stadium, he has already given some consideration to his summer transfer plans.

Wholesale changes are not intended, but there is one particular aspect Wilkins is eager to improve.

“I have always been the sort of manager that brings in just three or four players each summer,” he added.

“It takes a very brave manager to come in and get rid of eight players while bringing in another eight.

“We have a good nucleus of players here and that will remain in place.

“If you look at the last couple of seasons, though, defensively we have conceded too many goals.

“That is not necessarily aimed at the defenders — it is a collective thing.

He continued: “We need to have more control of the ball and the retention needs to improve.

“But we have good players here that can do that, so there will be no big overhaul.

“The players coming in will have to be better than the ones we already have.”

Talks with the current squad over their futures with the club will not take place until after the Colchester outing, although Wilkins has confirmed that a number of players still have 12 months left to run on their existing deals.

Goalkeeper Danny Gay is one of those, as is striker John Sands — scorer against Billericay. Jake Dye, Keiran Morphew, Luke Ingram and Reece Dobson also have contracts with Needham until the summer of 2018.