Big match preview: Leaders Needham Market host third-placed Wroxham in the Ryman North Division

Needham Market's Chris Hogg (right) has been ruled out for six to eight weeks with medial knee ligam

Needham Market's Chris Hogg (right) has been ruled out for six to eight weeks with medial knee ligament damage - Credit: Archant

It’s first versus third today in the Ryman North Division as table-toppers Needham Market host Wroxham at Bloomfields.

Mark Morsley’s promotion hungry Needham side will look to extend their lead at the top of the division with their third league win on the bounce this afternoon.

Successive 2-0 victories over Cheshunt and Thurrock this month have left Needham in good shape going into this game against opposition the Needham boss thinks could challenge in the top two come the end of the season.

“Wroxham are a great side,” declared Morsley, who will be without former Hibernian star Chris Hogg for the next six to eight weeks after the defender tore medial knee ligaments following a tackle in the victory over Thurrock.

“They have got a lot of good players and have merged the best of the Gorleston squad with the remaining best of the Wroxham players.

“Stewart Larter (the Wroxham boss) has been around the block and knows what he is doing, and I am pleased that Wroxham are doing so well actually as they were the side who always pushed the great Sudbury team of the Eastern Counties League.

“I am glad to see them back as a powerful force again and I think they have the potential to nudge themselves into the race for the top two.

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“I think they are nailed on for a play-off spot, and could certainly challenge the likes of Thurrock, Harlow, and hopefully us, for automatic promotion.”

Needham and Harlow have been the two sides who have largely occupied the top two spots this season.

Two teams that love to get the ball down and play, Needham endured a mini-rut last month with two disappointing results and performances against Great Wakering Rovers (a 2-2 draw) and Ware (a 1-0 defeat).

Following this, Morsley and his management team opted to change the system for the Cheshunt and Thurrock triumphs as he explains.

“We had a look at a few things together, we are now into the winter months where the pitches are heavy, and the 3-4-3 had left the team looking detached,” Morlsey added.

“We had a sit down and thought, okay, where are our strengths?

“Our full-backs and wingers are certainly two very key assets to us, and now, by reverting to a back-to-basics 4-4-2, we are getting the best out of them.

“We have had to go longer a bit earlier at times, but, since the change, we have turned in two very good results alongside performances.”

And Morsley has challenged second-placed Harlow, who sacrificed a 2-0 lead away at Thamesmead Town on Tuesday night, losing 3-2, to see if they can adapt their game to maintain their promotion push.

“At the end of the day, this is English non-league football in the winter months,” Morsley said of Harlow, who play their home games on a 3G surface.

“You won’t see the nice pitches until March or April again.

“We have had one or two testing spells but I think we’ve arrested that, and the challenge to Harlow is – ‘Can you do that?’ They have been dropping points left, right, and centre, so it’s left one or two seeds of doubt.”