Home advantage can help land promotion jackpot

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THE old football adage goes that play-off competitions are generally a lottery, but for Needham Market home advantage could be just the ticket they need to clinch the jackpot of promotion.

The Marketmen secured their place in the Ryman Division One North play-off picture with a 2-0 victory over Chatham Town on Saturday to leave Danny Law’s side in third place.

Victory over ninth-placed Brentwood Town tomorrow would guarantee Needham that third-place finish, which would give them the advantage of playing the semi-final and the final at Bloomfields.

Although Laws disagrees with the importance of having home advantage after watching his then unbeaten side (at home), crash out of last season’s play-off semi-finals, to tomorrow’s opponents, the statistics show just how key it could be if they are to clinch promotion.

Of their 41 games, Needham have managed 23 wins, 10 losses and eight draws to give them a total of 77 points. Of those victories, which make up 56 per cent of the club’s fixtures, 70 per cent, or 14 wins, of those have come at Bloomfields, compared to just 43 per cent, or nine wins, on their travels.

This has culminated in a total of nine more points being collected at home, a total of 43 out of the 77, having played a game fewer, highlighting that home has certainly been where the heart is for the Marketmen this campaign.

Captain Rhys Barber spoke of the unpredictably of the play-offs but conceded a third-place finish could give them an advantage.

“The play-offs are always interesting and it is not always the best team who wins through,” he said.

“We learned last season that home advantage doesn’t always mean everything but it is probably best to be at home and I think it would help.”