Needham’s title aspirations face tough test
THE promotion credentials of league leaders Needham Market will receive their sternest test so far with two quick-fire matches against fellow high-flyers.
Tomorrow’s visit of Potters Bar Town, currently third but with the same points, and a tricky trip to sixth-place Heybridge on Tuesday night should give a greater insight on how far Needham can go in their debut season in the Ryman League Division One North.
But after some canny acquisitions in recent weeks, manager Danny Laws believes he finally has the personnel to cope with a sustained promotion bid.
Despite not losing since the second league match of the season, Laws identified that his squad might come up a little short as the games became more incessant.
But he has quickly moved to improve the situation with the signings of Michael Steward, Rhys Henry, Dave Cannon and Christy Finch on loan from Lowestoft.
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Laws said: “I didn’t think we had the depth - there were times in August and September when I have not been able to name a full quota of subs. I wanted greater competition for places and I feel we now have that.
“But no matter what cover and depth you have, it is the players who put on the shirt on Saturday who need to do the business and they mustn’t forget that.”
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Steward’s signing from Bury Town was particularly eye-catching with the midfielder dropping down a division - to a level where he won the championship last season.
Laws admitted: “Michael played an integral part in Bury’s promotion last season and with that comes a great deal of experience. He is a physically strong lad and technically can hold his own. I have known him for a long time and he wanted to come to Needham which was great.”
Steward’s signing does pose a welcome headache for his manager with Bradley Barber being “outstanding” so far this season and Craig Parker the league’s top scorer with nine goals from the middle of the park.
But Laws’ decision-making continues to look good. In the midweek cup win at Hadleigh, he left out regular duo Nathan Stone and Sam Newson upfront but their replacements, Finch and Henry, both scored.
Laws, who feels his squad has been further boosted by emerging youngsters such as Robert Seaborne and Reumel Codrington, said: “I looked at other teams like Bury and Lowestoft to see how they went about winning things and they did it with experience and good quality cover in all areas. I didn’t feel we were quite there at the start of the season but I feel we are now prepared for what will be a busy spell.”
Busy is one word for a run which currently has Needham playing 12 league matches in the next six weeks - a period which should determine whether they have what it takes to remain fighting for the championship come the New Year.