Long Melford manager ‘disappointed’ with neutral semi-finals

LONG Melford manager Jason Maher has hit out at the revenue his club has missed out on by the decision to play their Suffolk Senior Cup semi-final at a neutral venue.

The draw for the competition, in association with BBC Radio Suffolk, took place at Suffolk FA’s Stowmarket headquarters on Friday night, pairing the Villagers with Suffolk and Ipswich League side Felixstowe United (ninth) on February 25 at Hadleigh United’s Millfield.

But no-one was able to tell either side where they would be playing the game until Tuesday teatime, despite being told it would be relayed to them on Monday.

Suffolk FA said clubs coming back to them to confirm venues had been behind the hold up, while they had not been possible to say at the draw due to their being a multitude of permutations and not wanting a club to have to travel far to the ground.

Maher, unhappy at being kept in the dark so long over the venue, expressed his dismay at the decision to allow another club to benefit from their semi-final via food and drink takings, as well as a percentage, as yet unspecified, of the gate receipts.

He said: “It disappoints me, if I am honest, that smaller clubs get to a semi-final.

“For all four clubs, it is their biggest game of the season, with big gates and a potential to take £1,000 at the bar and I do not see why clubs with better facilities should reap the rewards.”

But he added he did ‘commend’ Suffolk FA for listening to clubs with the move, with the association telling him they had seen a large proportion of clubs vote for it.

Despite his angst at the late announcement of the venue of the semi-final, Maher was happy with drawing Felixstowe United, rather than high-flyers Whitton United or Grundisburgh.

“I think it is a draw that to be fair gives both sides a chance to get to the final,” he said. “I had a chat with their manager (at the draw) and was not being disrespectful but they hoped they would get us and we hoped we would get them.”

He added: “It will be a tough game, let’s make no bones about it, league form goes out of the window.

“It will come down to whatever side holds their nerve on the day and our fans can play a big role too.”

Suffolk FA’s football services manager, Jarin Marin, said: “We canvassed all the clubs at the start of the season and, in fact, there were 88.6 per cent of clubs who said they wanted neutral grounds. We have listened to the clubs and it is inevitable you are not going to get 100 per cent of people wanting it, but this way we have listened to the majority.”

Hadleigh United, who are hoping their home game with third-place Ely City (3pm) beats the big freeze, have signed 25-year-old former Colchester United trainee central defender Mark Gaisford from fellow Premier Division side Stanway Rovers.

Midfielder Remi Garrett has moved to Felixstowe and Walton United, while Shaun French will now be unavailable on Saturdays due to work commitments.

In the First Division, Halstead Town are due to host Debenham LC while Cornard United are scheduled to travel to Godmanchester Rovers (both 3pm).