BIG MATCH OF THE WEEKEND: Needham Market and Witham Town set for take two in an FA Cup tie which has more subplots than imaginable
- Credit: James Ager
Needham Market host Witham Town in an FA Cup Third Round Qualifying match tomorrow which has more subplots than imaginable.
Controversy struck the last time these two met in the Ryman Division One North play-off semi-final last season, with tempers flying after Witham triumphed 1-0.
Needham Market boss Mark Morsley was left both seething and appalled in the aftermath of the match following Witham’s inclusion of Needham loan player Lee Townrow.
Although nothing was formally written or signed, according to the Marketmen, Witham broke a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with Townrow featuring, leaving some bad blood between the two clubs post-match - with Morsley admitting it had left a ‘sour taste’ and he would be ‘considering his position’ at Bloomfields.
Ironically then, a little over five months later, and with Witham now in the Ryman Premier Division, the two have been matched up against one another in what promises to be a mouth-watering and unmissable cup tie.
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“It (the draw) did make me smile I must admit,” declared Morsley.
“I remember actually saying to my staff after that game (the controversial one), I bet we get them in the FA Cup next year.
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“That’s what makes the competition and football the beautiful game – it’s great for Suffolk and for non-league football.”
Although admitting and accepting that the game’s billing will be all about what happened last season, Morsley is just looking forward to what is already a big game.
Prize money of £7,500 awaits the winners of this FA Cup Third Round Qualifying tie.
“I’m glad we’re at home,” confessed Morsley.
“I know that we’ve been better away from home but Witham’s pitch isn’t the greatest, and we’ll look to use possession of the ball.
“We’ve got to play the game not the occasion because if we get sucked into the subplot it could be a very different sort of game.
“I shook hands with Garry (Kimble, the Witham manager) at the Ryman dinner earlier in the season, and I’m sure Lee will play (tomorrow), but we’ve all moved on.”
On the pitch in that unforgettable semi-final, Witham triumphed 1-0 thanks to Kris Newby’s 88th-minute winner.
“I think revenge for what happened last year would be to get promoted this year,” added Morsley.
“Will I be over the moon if we win on Saturday? Of course I would be, win, and like last season, we have another chance of a big draw against a big Conference side (Needham drew Cambridge United in the Fourth Qualifying Round last season).
“But I would take three points against Maldon & Tiptree in the League 10 days later every day of the week over winning on Saturday.
“I think I must be the only person from the management team, the playing squad, and the club to say that but my job and my challenge at Needham is to get them playing Ryman Premier football.
“I did at Sudbury and at Leiston, and my CV shows I’m good at that and that’s my single-minded aim.
“The number one priority is the league, if this was a league match I’d be desperate to win it but we’ve already hit our targets in terms of money and budgets from this competition.”
Morsley has a near enough fully-fit squad for tomorrow but must decide whether to risk central midfielder Keiran Morphew, who has been struggling with tonsillitis.