Needham Market boss Mark Morsley believes his side will need to rediscover their form to make sure they avoid an FA Cup upset tomorrow (3pm).
The Marketmen start the second qualifying round tie a league higher and overwhelming favourites to dispatch London Tigers at Bloomfields.
But they will need to improve from Tuesday’s 2-1 home defeat to Heybridge Swifts where they missed a hatful of first-half chances and ran out of attacking ideas during the second period.
“The key for me is getting us back to where we were a couple of games ago,” said Morsley. “Although the levels of our performances have dropped off slightly, I think — with no disrespect to London Tigers — if we can get back to where we were a couple of games ago, we can win the game.”
Brendon Heath (shin/ankle) is set to be ruled out after being injured by Liam Springett’s red-card challenge on Tuesday and Morsley fears he could lose the youngster for an extended period of time.
However, former Inverness Caledonian Thistle captain Chris Hogg could return to the heart of Needham’s defence.
In Tuesday’s loss, Sam Newson cheekily backheeled Needham in front from close range, but visiting custodian Danny Sambridge had a blinder to keep out other efforts from the goalscorer, Ian Westlake, Luke Ingram and academy product Ace Howell — who signed a first-team contract following the match.
Kem Izzet, Ollie Fenn and Westlake also missed the target in the first half and Heybridge turned the match around in first-half stoppage time thanks to goals from Neil Richmond and Billy Hunt — the second a stunning swivel and volley from 18 yards.
After the interval, Springett was sent off for a dangerous shin-high challenge on Brendon Heath, but Needham could not make their man advantage count in the last half an hour.
Ingram, Westlake, Newson, Fenn and Darryl Coakley all went close, while Sam Nunn’s volley was spectacularly kept out by Sambridge.
Following his sending off, Heybridge alleged that Springett had been punched in the changing rooms at Bloomfields.
After an investigation by Morsley on behalf of the club, the matter was swiftly dealt with and closed on Wednesday morning.
The Needham boss added: “Following my investigations, which have included speaking to the Heybridge chairman, all key parties are happy with the action taken by me on behalf of Needham Market FC.”
n Ace Howell’s brother Lamell has signed non-contract terms at Bloomfields following his release from Cambridge United and Needham’s ex-Colchester United goalkeeper Shaun Phillips has put pen to paper on a two-year deal.
As a result of Phillips’ contract, Andrew Plummer has been made available for free transfer.