AFC Sudbury 1
Needham Market 1
Richard Wilkins conceded that Needham Market only have themselves to blame for missing out on the play-offs this season.
The Marketmen have surpassed expectations in their second campaign in the Ryman League’s top tier, having spent the majority of the season in the top five.
But a 1-1 draw away at already-relegated AFC Sudbury on Easter Monday left Needham (7th) all but out of the race for the play-offs heading into their final league game at home to Billericay Town tomorrow (3pm).
Although, mathematically at least, Mark Morsley’s side can still finish in the play-offs, they would need both Wingate & Finchley and Leiston to lose and beat Billericay, while at the same pulling off an eight-goal swing in goal difference.
And while the Marketmen have history of masterminding final day heroics, three years ago they beat Chatham Town 7-1 and overturned a six-goal deficit in goal difference to finish in the Division One North play-offs on the final day, assistant boss Wilkins knows it will be a tough ask.
“We only have ourselves to blame,” he said. “There are plenty of clubs who would prefer to be in our shoes, but we are disappointed.
“We were so good for six-and-a-half months of the season, but the last few months standards have dropped, players have looked tired and have not been playing to the levels they are capable of.
“But I’ll be honest, it’s been a very good season. When we reflect on it, we haven’t done bad, considering we finished fifth-from-bottom last season.
“A lot of people thought we wouldn’t be in the top five all the way through. We’re not in the top five now, but we’ve only dropped out in the last two or three weeks of the season.
“I said to the players all year that goal difference counts as a point, and it has. It’s still mathematically possible to finish in the play-offs, but we’ve got to have an eight-goal turnaround.
“You always hope and pray, but I don’t think it’s a prayer that’s going to happen.”
Needham went into Monday’s derby with Sudbury still with a top five finish in their sights, after edging past Harrow Borough 2-1 (Sands 8’, Coakley pen 78’) at Bloomfields on Saturday to end their six-game winless run.
And when Luke Ingram fired them infront two minutes before the break against Sudbury, they found themselves back in the top five.
But Morsley’s side could not hold on to their lead, as James Baker equalised late on to ensure the points were shared, and leave Needham requiring a miracle.
“We really should have been out of sight at half-time,” Wilkins said. “Things haven’t quite been going for us lately.
“We’ve had a strong penalty appeal, the third one in our last three games, which hasn’t gone for us.
“One mistake or a lapse in concentration and they’ve equalised. It’s just annoying, because it’s not today we’ve not made the play-offs, it’s the last 10 games when we’ve only picked up 10 points.”
Needham: Bradbrook, Dye, Coakley, Morphew (Whight 46), Crisell (Miller 61), Nunn, Holland, Izzet (Clark 70), Ingram, Dobson, Simmons. Subs not used: Turner, Munson. Att: 353. Free Press man of the match: Bradbrook