Loss of Westlake comes as major blow to Needham’s play-off hopes

MISSING IN ACTION: Key man Ian Westlake has been ruled out for the remainder of Needham Market's season with a knee injury
MISSING IN ACTION: Key man Ian Westlake has been ruled out for the remainder of Needham Market's season with a knee injury
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Needham Market have been dealt a major blow with the news that key player Ian Westlake will miss the 
remainder of the season.

The news could not have come at a worse time for the Marketmen, who find themselves still perfectly-placed within the Ryman League Division One North play-off hunt ahead of a vital final period of fixtures that will shape their destiny.

Currently sitting in the fifth and final play-off spot, Needham head to 16th-placed Tilbury tomorrow (3pm) before hosting rivals AFC Sudbury on Tuesday evening (7.45pm).

And to make matters worse, Morsley will also have to contend with the possible absences of Sheridan Driver, Sam Newson and Luke Hammond for tomorrow’s encounter.

“They are some big players to lose and you can not really tell how much of an affect it will have on us,” he conceded. “The biggest thing about losing Ian and Sheridan is missing that experience they bring in the big pressure games.

“I’ve always turned to Sheridan when I’ve needed a big character and with Ian you know he will always look to make things happen no matter the situation.

“They will be a big loss, but I’m not one to throw the towel in and I’m confident we can keep on track in their absence.”

That claim has already been proved evident as the Marketmen secured back-to-back successes in Westlake’s absence in the last week, following a 1-0 win over Ware on Saturday with a convincing 3-0 victory away Erith and Belvedere, a fourth straight win on Wednesday, restoring the manager’s belief in his squad’s chances of getting in the play-offs.

“The form has been surprising,” he added. “I lost a bit of belief after our defeat to Maldon and I made them aware of that.

“Since then we have had a great reaction and results have gone our way with others also slipping up.

“Going to Tilbury away is never easy, it is a horrible place to visit and form really goes out of the window.

“Sudbury will have that extra incentive to beat us as their rivals and I’m sure they would love to get one over us.

“I don’t care how we get in the play-offs, but if we do then I believe we could be seen as the team that others want to avoid.”

n Needham Market Reserves host Long Melford tomorrow (3pm), aiming to bounce back from an inconsistent week.

The reserves suffered a 7-1 mauling at Great Yarmouth Town on Saturday, drew 2-2 draw with Braintree Town Reserves on Monday, but went down 5-0 at home to Whitton United on Wednesday.