Former Ipswich Town star Ian Westlake reveals the secret to Needham Market’s success this season

Needham Market v Thamesmead. Needham in red. Needham's Ian Westlake rides a challenge.

Needham Market v Thamesmead. Needham in red. Needham's Ian Westlake rides a challenge. - Credit: Archant

Needham Market midfielder Ian Westlake has revealed the secret to the Marketmen’s success this season – silence!

The former Ipswich Town star has been deployed in central midfield for the Ryman North title-challengers of late, partnering former Colchester United captain Kem Izzet in the middle of the park.

Since Needham’s formation change from 3-4-3 to 4-4-2 at the start of December, the two former Football League midfielders have formed a blossoming partnership, helping the Marketmen record five straight league victories, and without conceding a goal.

And Westlake is revelling playing next to Izzet, even if the two don’t talk to each other on the pitch!

“It’s so easy playing next to Kem,” Westlake declared.

“He knows the game so well, he’s a knowledgeable guy, and has seen it all before.

“He knows what to do when teams go long, and when teams go short, and it’s nice to play in there with him.

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“We don’t really talk, we understand that balance of when one attacks, the other defends, and we just know what to do.”

The pair, who have made more than 600 Football League appearances between them, will look to resume their telepathic understanding today as the Marketmen take on relegation-threatened Barkingside at Bloomfields (kick-off 3pm).

The Suffolk side go into the game on the back of a 2-0 victory against Thamesmead Town, a scoreline Needham have accumulated in four of their last five games since changing formation – something Westlake sees as key to their success.

“The 3-4-3 formation was a fun formation to play for a while,” admitted Westlake, who scored the winner in Needham’s 1-0 triumph away at Barkingside earlier this season.

“It’s not one I, or anyone (at the club), was particularly familiar with, I think the Dutch experimented with it at the World Cup.

“It did work for a while, and teams looked surprised playing against it.

“I was never a huge fan of it to be honest, and teams eventually figured it out – playing high up the pitch and exposing us out wide.

“Thankfully, we’re now back using a formation we all know and love, and you can’t go wrong with 4-4-2!”

Needham sit second in the table before today’s encounter, and look well on course to achieve promotion into the Ryman Premier this season with near enough the same squad that missed out in the play-offs last campaign.

“I think that the reason we’re doing so well this year is that we’ve learnt from last season,” Westlake declared.

“Mark (Morsley, the Needham manager), only had three players (Ollie Fenn, Keiran Morphew, and Sam Newson) at the start of pre-season (2013/14) before getting everyone in at the same time, and it takes more than two weeks to gel a team!

“I think we used the whole of last season to learn and we know where we are now though, we’ve learnt to play with each other, and we’re playing really well.”

Westlake is hoping for another Needham win today to increase the pressure on leaders Harlow Town.

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