Ace Craig targets FA Vase glory

NEEDHAM Market midfielder Craig Parker is hoping this could be his year in the FA Vase.Despite still being only 23, the former Bury Town player has already played in two Vase semi-finals and two quarter-finals.

Stuart Watson

NEEDHAM Market midfielder Craig Parker is hoping this could be his year in the FA Vase.

Despite still being only 23, the former Bury Town player has already played in two Vase semi-finals and two quarter-finals.

And now the prolific goalscorer - whose side host Spartan South Midlands Division One side Bedford in the second round tomorrow - is ready to go all the way to a showpiece final at Wembley Stadium.


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“Every footballer dreams of playing at Wembley,” said Parker.

“I've come so close to the final so many times already that I'm beginning to think that maybe this could be the year.”

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Parker - who reached the quarter and semi-finals of the Vase in successive seasons for Bury at the start of his career - has found his ability to influence Needham's big games in the competition limited by injury in recent years.

When Needham lost to Kirkham & Wesham in the semi-finals two seasons ago, Parker played both legs of that tie with an undetected ruptured cruciate.

That injury kept him out for the first half of last season and, upon his return, he suffered a similar scenario when he played in the club's quarter-final loss to Chalfont St Peter with an undetected fractured foot.

Parker spent this summer in a plaster cast to rectify the problem and finally returned to the side in September.

And the all-action midfielder - who scored 32 goals from 52 appearances for the club last time he was injury free for a full season - has already netted six times this campaign.

He said: “It's been so disappointing not to be 100% fit for the big games in the Vase over the last two years.

“I, as much as anyone in this team, want a run in this competition.”

Needham boss Danny Laws - who will be able to replace the unavailable Richard Butler with the fit again Lewis Pemberton in defence - added: “This competition is special - there is no getting away from it.

“We've had some great experiences in it in recent years and, although it is only the second round, the hair on the back of my neck will be standing up come Saturday.”

With the international break meaning there are no Premier League or Championship fixtures this weekend, Needham chairman David Bugg is hopeful there will be a good crowd at Bloomfields.

He said: “Everyone who watches will be made very welcome and, hopefully, the attendance will be around our average of 200 people which is the best in the Ridgeons League.”

Elsewhere in the Vase tomorrow, there is an all-Ridgeons League Premier Division tie as Woodbridge Town travel to Cambridgeshire to face Ely City, while Leiston are in Northamptonshire to face a Bugbrooke St Michaels side that play a step below them in the non-league pyramid (United Counties Division One).

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