Leiston and Needham Market clash in all-Suffolk League Cup tie

Needham Market stalwart Gareth Heath, who will be rested for tonight's Southern League Challenge Cup

Needham Market stalwart Gareth Heath, who will be rested for tonight's Southern League Challenge Cup tie at Leiston. Photo: BEN POOLEY - Credit: Archant

Needham Market face a tough test at Suffolk rivals Leiston in a Southern League Challenge Cup first round tie at Victory Road this evening (kick-off 7.45pm).

Both teams have bigger fish to fry, in the Eko-Stik Southern League Premier Central, but both will be keen to return to winning ways after disappointing league defeats last weekend.

Glenn Driver’s Leiston side were edged out 1-0 at home to mid-table Barwell, having bowed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Hastings by a 3-4 home scoreline the previous Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Marketmen have endured a difficult spell of late, losing 3-1 at Stourbridge on Saturday to extend their winless run in the league to six matches, with three losses and three draws.

Both sides are expected to make a few changes this evening, and Needham boss Richard Wilkins will be resting first-team regulars Luke Ingram and Gareth Heath, although it will still be a strong team on display.

“It’s a big week for us, with a home match to come on Saturday as well,” explained Wilkins, with reference to the visit of AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Saturday.

“A few of the lads won’t be playing at Leiston, but it will still be a strong starting XI, with a relatively young bench.

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“Both Luke Ingram and Gareth Heath need a little breather. Luke has been kicked from pillar to post recently, and was so unlucky not to win a penalty last weekend – we have really been up against it with referee’s decisions lately, because we should have had a penalty against Met Police (3-2 defeat in the FA Cup) as well.

“Gareth doesn’t need to be involved in this game, because we gave several others who can play in his position, while we will be missing (centre-half) Keiran Morphew through suspension.

“So although we won’t be full-strength, it will not be a weakened team by any stretch of the imagination. We will be giving it a good go, and we want to get back to winning ways.

“We played well except for a silly 20 minutes at Stourbridge. We started well but then conceded three goals before half-time. There were two deflections and the third went between someone’s legs. But I was pleased with how we reacted in the second half, and had we got that penalty decision, then we could set up a very nervous finale,” added Wilkins.

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