Dramatic switch could give Needham vital advantage

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NEEDHAM Market could still play their three-times postponed play-off semi-final on home turf tonight (7.45pm) in what would be a dramatic twist to their promotion push.

A defeat against Brentwood Town on Saturday meant the Marketmen had seemingly blown their chance of home advantage in the play-offs, but the lashing rain has led to Ryman League officials losing patience with the Chadfields surface at Tilbury.

The Free Press understands the game will finally be played tonight with an announcement at 11am keeping Tilbury, East Thurrock and Needham Market as one of three venues for the game to be played at.

Chadfields will be the first choice, but should it fail a fourth successive day of pitch inspections, East Thurrock or Needham Market would then host the fateful semi-final, depending which one has stood up to the wet weather the best.

The rush to get the game on comes as the league tries to avoid having to move the scheduled Sunday final, and Tilbury chairman Robin Nash said only a few square feet were now holding the Chadfields pitch back from being deemed playable.

But he is very hopeful the play-off semi-final will be played there later today, after volunteers put hours into forking it.

Speaking yesterday, he said: “It is off again today, hopefully we can get it on tomorrow.

“The referee inspected it at 11am and we are not far away today and the weather looks promising but there is still a couple of square feet that is a problem.”

Meanwhile, Needham Market manager Danny Laws was philo-sophical about the series of postponements this week.

He was adamant his side will get the job done whenever they get the chance to play.

“We have been all geared up to play but you cannot control the weather and you just have to readjust yourself,” he said. “We are not looking for excuses – a lot of people at this level are volunteers and they have not got the money to spend on expensive drainage systems and when the pitch is deemed safe to play we will play.

“If I had known it was going to be Thursday or later I’d have had a training session Tuesday and one or two have had to juggle work around but there you go.”

Laws said the frustration was not getting to his players and himself, and was more of an issue for their employers and the league itself.

“They have a backlog of congestion and it is a bit of a nightmare and frustration for the league,” he said.

“I would like to think they do not force it on Friday and we could play Saturday and (the final) Monday.”

Should Needham reach the final, they would face either Enfield Town or Grays Athletic on Sunday.

If they were to play Enfield, they would travel away, but a final with Grays would take place at the Marketmen’s home ground of Bloomfields.