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Needham Market boss Kevin Horlock looking to carry positive pre-season into cup semi-final with Stowmarket Town




Kevin Horlock has enjoyed an almost perfect first pre-season in charge of Needham Market, but he is warning his players ‘the hard work starts now’ ahead of their season-opening county cup semi-final.

The Marketmen kick off their 20202/21 campaign against lower-league neighbours Stowmarket Town on AFC Sudbury’s 3G pitch on Tuesday in the coronavirus-delayed Turners Hyundai Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final (7.45pm).

They will go into it on the back of winning six of their seven warm-up matches – the only loss a 3-0 reverse against higher-league Braintree Town – after beating Bury Town 3-1 at Bloomfields on Tuesday . A Billy Hunt brace in the first half was added to by a cool breakaway finish from captain Gareth Heath to sign off pre-season in style.

Needham Market captain Gareth Heath celebrates scoring the final goal during the 3-1 pre-season friendly against Bury Town at Bloomfields on TuesdayPicture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market captain Gareth Heath celebrates scoring the final goal during the 3-1 pre-season friendly against Bury Town at Bloomfields on TuesdayPicture: Ben Pooley

“Obviously coming in at the back end of last season and then having the big break that we had was quite tough and I was eager to get going,” said former professional Horlock, who stepped up from running the club’s academy sides to replace Richard Wilkins at the helm.

“The lads I’ve added, the young lads that have come through the academy have added to that and the lads that I’ve kept have really bought into it. It has been a really positive pre-season for us.

“We have had good results which, I know some people say is not important, but it does breed confidence. And we have played in an attractive way and we’ve scored a few goals along the way as well.

Needham Market's Byron Lawrence is cup-tied for Tuesday's Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final with Stowmarket TownPicture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market's Byron Lawrence is cup-tied for Tuesday's Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final with Stowmarket TownPicture: Ben Pooley

“It’s been really positive but the hard work starts now. We are going to continue to train hard two nights a week and recover properly and hopefully we can start the league games and more importantly the Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final against Stowmarket how we’ve played in pre-season.”

Despite there being two levels in the pyramid between Tuesday’s opponents, Horlock is far from expecting an easy ride.

“They are obviously going to want to put one over us like we want to put one over them,” he said.

“They are our local rivals in terms of distance, albeit in a different division.

New Needham Market signing Ben FowkesPicture: Ben Pooley
New Needham Market signing Ben FowkesPicture: Ben Pooley

“But they have got some good players there, that has been well documented and fair play to them. They are ambitious and want to get out of the division they are in and no-one can knock them for that.

“We will be expecting a real tough game but it is a game that we would like to think that if we play as well as we can that we have more than a fighting chance of winning it.”

Former Ipswich Town midfielder Byron Lawrence, who has joined alongside Josh Pollard and Ben Fowkes, will not be available for his competitive debut until their Southern League campaign starts at Redditch United a week on Saturday (3pm) due to being cup-tied.

Needham Market's new signing Joshua PollardPicture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market's new signing Joshua PollardPicture: Ben Pooley

But goalkeeper Marcus Garnham, who rolled his ankle in Saturday’s 3-2 win against AFC Sudbury leading to borrowing Ipswich’s Roger Penske, should return along with Kieran Morphew and Joe Marsden.

The opening draw for the 2020/21 Suffolk Premier Cup, meanwhile, has served up a tough first round tie at home to fellow Step 3 side Leiston on a date yet to be confirmed.

Needham Market manager Kevin Horlock during the pre-season game against Bury Town at BloomfieldsPicture: Ben Pooley
Needham Market manager Kevin Horlock during the pre-season game against Bury Town at BloomfieldsPicture: Ben Pooley