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Kevin Horlock warns not to write Needham Market off when they face Maidstone United in the Emirates FA Cup





Kevin Horlock says Needham Market cannot be underestimated when they face higher-league Maidstone United for a place in the Emirates FA Cup first round this weekend.

The Marketmen make only their second appearance in the fourth qualifying round of the famous cup competition at Bloomfields on Saturday (3pm), with a spot in Monday's coveted first-round draw, live on the BBC, up for grabs.

Maidstone play two leagues higher than Needham in non-league's top flight, the Vanarama National League, but having produced several giant-killings in last season's run to the Isuzu FA Trophy quarter-finals, Horlock has warned against writing off his side's chances of causing an upset.

Needham Market manager Kevin Horlock prepares his side to face Maidstone United in the Emirates FA Cup fourth qualifying round on Saturday Picture: Mecha Morton
Needham Market manager Kevin Horlock prepares his side to face Maidstone United in the Emirates FA Cup fourth qualifying round on Saturday Picture: Mecha Morton

"We're looking forward to it," the Needham boss said. "Don't write us off.

"Everyone wrote us off in the Trophy last year and we had an unbelievable run.

"We played teams in the division above and teams in the National League in the Trophy last year.

"To be a part of that group and the experiences we had, no one gave us a chance when we went to Yeovil and some of the games we had at home.

"It's right up there with everything I've achieved in football. It was an incredible experience and it brought the boys together."

Last season's club-record run in the FA Trophy saw the Marketmen dump out two National League sides in Wealdstone and Yeovil Town, along with National League South outfit Dartford, before bowing out in the quarter-finals to Stockport County, who would go on to be crowned champions of non-league's highest division.

Needham's hopes of a similar run in this season's competition were halted at their first hurdle on Saturday, losing 1-0 at home to fellow Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central side Stourbridge in the third round qualifying at Bloomfields.

Attention now turns back to the FA Cup for Horlock's side, who are aiming to write their names into the club's record books once again with a victory on Saturday, which would send the Suffolk club into the first-round proper for the first time in their history.

Needham Market enjoyed a memorable run to the Isuzu FA Trophy quarter-finals last year Picture: Mecha Morton
Needham Market enjoyed a memorable run to the Isuzu FA Trophy quarter-finals last year Picture: Mecha Morton

"We were below our best against Stourbridge and it was a massive disappointment," Horlock said.

"I know people will say 'now you can concentrate on the FA Cup', but we want to be successful in every competition we enter.

"When you have a run like we did in the Trophy it makes you hungry to do well in the cup competitions again. We'll look back on it as a blip in our season.

"There's no bigger cup competition than the FA Cup and we're on the cusp of history for the football club.

Needham Market were edged out 1-0 by Cambridge United in their previous appearance in the Emirates FA Cup fourth qualifying round back in 2013 Picture: Tudor Morgan-Owen
Needham Market were edged out 1-0 by Cambridge United in their previous appearance in the Emirates FA Cup fourth qualifying round back in 2013 Picture: Tudor Morgan-Owen

"When I took the job I wanted to create excitement and play football the right way.

"I wanted to achieve things in competitions like the FA Cup and get to the first round where the club has never been before."

With Tuesday's scheduled home league game with Bedford Town postponed, the Marketmen now sit eighth in the Premier Division Central table, two points off the play-off spots, but having played less games than all of the teams above them.

Meanwhile, Saturday's opponents Maidstone, who finished six points clear at the top of last season's National League South to earn promotion to the top tier of non-league, dropped into the relegation zone following last weekend's 1-1 draw at home to FC Halifax Town.

"We want to get one step further, but we know it's going to be tough," Horlock said.

"Me and Tom (Rothery) my assistant manager went to watch Maidstone at Barnet last week.

"We're fully aware what we're up against. We've watched clips of them and shown the players.

"It's going to be really tough. They're a big, physical side and they won their division last year to get into the National League.

"There's going to be nerves and I don't mind that. It gives you an edge and a focus, but we've just got to make sure the nerves don't get the better of us.

"In the past we've dealt with that really well. We need to work hard and be brave enough and match their fight and have the confidence and the know how to get the ball down and play at the right times."