Survival the first target for marketmen

LOOKING UP: Richard Wilkins is aiming for a top-half finish (Picture: Ben Pooley)
LOOKING UP: Richard Wilkins is aiming for a top-half finish (Picture: Ben Pooley)

Richard Wilkins insists his Needham Market side must secure their Step 3 status first before launching a late push for a top-half finish.

With roughly a third of the season left to go, the Marketmen (21st) are just five points and three places above the Bostik League Premier Division relegation zone.

Wilkins’ side travel to play-off chasing Staines Town (6th) tomorrow (3pm), before hosting basement side Burgess Hill Town at Bloomfields next Tuesday (7.45pm) in what could be a crucial game in Needham’s survival bid.

The Marketmen have been in good form over the last four weeks, picking up seven points from a possible nine, and on Tuesday they continued the defence of their Omni Freight Services Suffolk Premier Cup title with a 3-2 win over Felixstowe & Walton United to progress to the last four.

With 14 league games of their season left to go, Needham are eight points adrift of 12th-placed Merstham and the top half, and after recent results there is renewed hope that Wilkins’ side could make a late push for the top half, where he feels his side should be.

“(Burgess Hill) just lost to Enfield (on Tuesday), we were hoping that would be a draw to bring another side into it (the relegation battle),” the Needham boss said.

“We’re confident we can go to Staines on Saturday and pick up something.

“On Tuesday it’s the proverbial six-pointer. But as I’ve said to the boys, we’ve got to take each games as it comes now.

“There’s going to be some weird and wonderful results, and there’s going to be twists and turns before the end of the season.

“45 points might not keep you up, so we must make sure we keep winning games and get as many points as we can.

“I think, if I’m being totally honest, we’re a mid-table team. I think we’re 12th in the league at the moment and we’re building this season.

“If we finish anywhere near that it will have been a good season, but quite rightly we need to get those points first to move us away from the bottom.”

Since the Bostik League’s top flight expanded from 22 to 24 teams in 2013/14, the most points the bottom-placed team has finished on is 38 (Grays Athletic, last season).

The Marketmen could surpass that tally with victories tomorrow and on Tuesday and will be boosted by the returns of Jack Simmons and John Sands, who were both rested in Tuesday’s Premier Cup win.

•Needham’s Premier Division rivals Leiston have completed the signing of Darren Mills from Bury Town. The Blues announced shortly before we went to press the striker, who had scored 11 goals for the Blues this season, has left the club.