Cup final dreams on hold for now as Needham focus on pivotal league tie

HOME DRAW: Luke Ingram on the ball for Needham Market
HOME DRAW: Luke Ingram on the ball for Needham Market
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Needham Market 1

Merstham 1

Needham Market assistant manager Richard Wilkins says the lure of a potential cup final at Colchester United is on the back-burner this weekend.

The Marketmen take on Wilkins’ former club Leiston in the semi-finals of the Suffolk FA Premier Cup (at Woodbridge Town) on Wednesday (7.45pm), with a place in the final, which is set to be held at Colchester’s Weston Homes Community Stadium, up for grabs on Monday, May 8.

But before then Needham entertain Enfield Town at Bloomfields tomorrow (3pm), in a clash between two sides hoping to be in the Ryman League Premier Division play-offs at the end of the season.

And Wilkins says all the focus will be on this weekend’s league tie, as the Marketmen (3rd) bid to further strengthen their current position in the top five of the table.

“We’ve got eight (league) games to go,” the Needham assistant boss said.

“Every game becomes harder, but there are no easy games at this time of year.

“On their day Enfield can beat anybody in the league. They seem to have drifted off a little bit, but it’s another tough one for us and it’s important we keep picking up points.

“Saturday’s probably the biggest one (out of the next two games). We want to make the play-offs and Enfield want to get in the play-offs as well.

“Saturday’s the most important one, but it would be good to get to a final.

“I don’t think we can be any worse than what we have been against Leiston in the previous two games (4-0 and 5-1 defeats in the league). The boys have got to believe a little bit on Wednesday and play to their levels, because they’ve been blown apart by them in the two games.

“We have to put that right. They’re a very good team and have got some very good players, but so have we.”

Buoyed by their comeback win at fellow play-off rivals Tonbridge Angels on Saturday, which saw them come from 2-0 and 3-1 down to prevail 4-3, the Marketmen went into Tuesday’s rearranged home clash with relegation-threatened Merstham in good spirits.

Yet despite this fixture pitting the second best home record (Needham) against the second worst away record (Merstham) in the league, it was the visitors who looked to be upsetting the form book.

Omar Folkes handed Merstham a surprise lead on 16 minutes, making the most of a fortuitous deflection which fell kindly to him to slot past Needham’s Danny Gay.

The Marketmen laid siege on the Merstham goal in the second half and came close to an equaliser on 64 minutes when Reece Dobson hit the post from an acute angle.

Needham finally broke Merstham’s resistance ten minutes from time, as Darryl Coakley’s corner fell to Luke Ingram, whose shot was too powerful for visiting goalkeeper Josh Smith to keep out.

Substitute John Sands had a chance to secure all three points for the hosts in added time, but his free header went off target in the final minutes.

Needham Market: Gay, Dye, Coakley, Holland (Whight 62), Morphew, Nunn (Miller 61), Ingram, Izzet (c), Dobson, Clark, Simmons (Sands 56). Subs not used: Turner, Bradbrook. Attendance: 199. Free Press man of the match: Keiran Morphew.