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Needham boss keen to see a team axed from league to ‘keep it competitive’

CAPTAIN'S EFFORTS: Gareth Heath was heavily involved in all three Needham goals
CAPTAIN'S EFFORTS: Gareth Heath was heavily involved in all three Needham goals

Needham Market manager Richard Wilkins does not want to see relegation reprieves in the Bostik League Premier Division, feeling ‘there is no target’ if no team faces the axe.

Due to extensive changes to the National League structure by the FA, it was announced at the start of the season that only one team would be demoted from the league in 2017/18, down from the usual three teams.

But rumours have persisted that a number of Premier Division sides could ultimately fold and, if they do, it is possible that no team will be relegated, according to league chairman Nick Robinson.

He emphasised, however, that no team had yet signalled their intention to withdraw and so, for now, any possible outcome is hypothetical.

The Thurrock Gazette has reported that Thurrock will cease to exist next season, following comments from their manager last month, while both Lowestoft Town and Dulwich Hamlet have this week revealed severe financial difficulties that could also lead to them folding.

But Robinson said: “No clubs have resigned and only if and when they do will the situation become clear.

“They must do this by March 31 or there will be ramifications.”

The news was not welcomed at Bloomfields, with Wilkins adamant there had to be a ‘point’ to playing out the rest of the season, once any promotion push had failed.

Wilkins said: “It would be disappointing for the league for any club to fold, not least the club itself.

“They are clubs with a lot of history, it would be very sad to see them disappear.

“But what would be even worse, is if their withdrawal ended up with no team going down. What’s the point in having a league if there’s nothing to play for?

“The bottom end of the league is very tight and it’s good for the fans and the game to have this competition.

“There needs to be excitement at both ends of the table.

“It’s something big to play for and it’s a big thing when a team manages to survive.”

Following Tuesday evening’s 3-1 home defeat of basement side Burgess Hill Town, Wilkins added that he had decided to ignore any possible demotion reprieves and treat it as if at least one team will be going down at the end of the season.

He said: “It was a massive game for us with them being bottom — it’s made life a lot easier for us by beating them.

“We’re not thinking about the what ifs for now, we’re only looking at what we have been told, otherwise we could lose focus.”

• Meanwhile, Richard Wilkins has been awarded the Mitre Manager of the Month trophy as The Marketmen remained undefeated throughout February.

Wilkins said Tuesday’s victory over Burgess Hill Town was a ‘bit of a relief for me’ as the ‘Manager of the Month curse’ was a well known thing.

He said: “We’ve been on a fantastic run and I’m so glad the curse hasn’t struck.

“But the confidence is there for us, it’s probably the first time this season we’ve had an extended run with only a few injuries, and we’re showing what we can do.

“We’ve been really unlucky with injuries this season.

“Now we’ve opened up a bit of a gap from the bottom (12 points), we’re starting to look up the table not down.

“We want to finish as high as we can, and make Bloomfields a fortress for the rest of the season.”

• Needham are home to Merstham (3pm) on Saturday before taking on Bury Town in the semi-final of the Omni Freight Suffolk Premier Cup on Wednesday (7.45pm). They are the current title holders.

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