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Released Ipswich Town midfielder Ross Crane and Braintree Town promotion winner Christian Frimpong among Needham Market's new signings as Kevin Horlock targets promotion



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With five new signings in his Needham Market squad and another set to follow ahead of the weekend’s opener, Kevin Horlock believes they are ready to put a disappointing 2021/22 league campaign firmly behind them with a sustained push for promotion.

The Marketmen memorably reached the quarter-finals of FA Trophy last term, eventually bowing out at home to Stockport County, but fizzled out in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central, ending in a lower-half 12th.

While other clubs drip-fed their supporters new additions, Needham fans were left waiting for news on a host of trailists who featured in pre-season matches as unnamed players.

Christian Frimpong (main), Ross Crane (right) and Jacob Lay (left) are three of the five new signings Needham Market have made ahead of their season opener at AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Christian Frimpong (main), Ross Crane (right) and Jacob Lay (left) are three of the five new signings Needham Market have made ahead of their season opener at AFC Rushden & Diamonds

But the club have now revealed the ones that have earned their stay and Horlock is more than happy with what he has so far recruited, amid the departures of Ben Fowkes (Braintree Town), Callum Sturgess and Tom Maycock.

The standout name is undoubtedly recently-released Ipswich Town professional Ross Crane, the attacking midfielder having ended last term on loan at previous club Bury Town but with the Marketmen throughout pre-season.

“Ross has been unbelievable,” said Horlock.

Ghanian-born Christian Frimpong, the brother of former Arsenal player Emmanuel, was part of the AFC Sudbury side that reached the first round proper of the FA Cup last season Picture: Mecha Morton
Ghanian-born Christian Frimpong, the brother of former Arsenal player Emmanuel, was part of the AFC Sudbury side that reached the first round proper of the FA Cup last season Picture: Mecha Morton

“He’s still young, he did really well and got his move to Ipswich but it just didn’t quite work out for him and that happens.

“I’m hoping we’re a springboard for him to go back into the professional game because he is one hell of a player.

“There was lots of interest, he got some lucrative offers from elsewhere but he choose to come to Needham, feeling it was the right place for him to develop and hopefully bounce back into the pro game.”

Christian Frimpong, who AFC Sudbury had signed from Braintree Town last summer before he ended up back at Step 2 with Chelmsford City, is set to add some steel to the heart of the midfield.

Ross Crane was on the team sheet as a trialist from the opening pre-season fixture against his former club Ipswich Town Picture: Richard Marsham
Ross Crane was on the team sheet as a trialist from the opening pre-season fixture against his former club Ipswich Town Picture: Richard Marsham

“He is a great and his mentality is unbelievable, he is just perfect and exactly what we needed,” said Horlock.

“We’ve got loads of really talented footballers on the ball but he has that steeliness, will to win and communication; he is a leader and it was a no-brainer when he became available.

“He had offers from elsewhere so I was really pleased to secure him.”

New Needham Market signing Jacob Lay began his senior football journey with AFC Sudbury Reserves back in 2016/17 Picture: Mecha Morton
New Needham Market signing Jacob Lay began his senior football journey with AFC Sudbury Reserves back in 2016/17 Picture: Mecha Morton

Harry Knights, a ‘no-nonsense defender’ who impressed in the games with relegated Lowestoft Town last term, will provide competition at centre-back while striker Jamie McGrath scored 53 goals for Step 7 East Bergholt last term, according to Horlock.

“I know people will say it’s a massive step up and I get that but look, the goal doesn’t change size whatever level you play at,” he said of the player who played two games on dual registration with Step 5 Brantham Athletic at the end of last term.

“The lad can finish and he has come in and done unbelievably well.”

The arrivals are completed by Jacob Lay, a wide right but versatile attacker who gained promotion from Step 6 with title-winning Ipswich Wanderers last term.

“He was at a pro club as a young lad and played for a few clubs in and around the area and when we played against them in the charity cup game I just thought he was the best player on the pitch,” said Horlock.

But another striker is still high on the former Manchester City, West Ham United and Ipswich Town player's wishlist.

He said: "I am still actively trying to add another body to the squad but I've said it before, it's got to be the right person in terms of the mentality, personally and obviously the most important thing as well, in term of football.

"All clubs are always looking to add that player that makes them better and we're no different, but I'm happy with who we've signed.

"I think we've strengthened. Obviously we've lost Ben Fowkes to Braintree who is going to be a loss as he scored 19 goals for us. But I think we're one player short of being in a stronger position than we were last year."

A trip to AFC Rushden & Diamonds, who missed out on a play-off spot last season on goal difference, beckons for their Pitching In Southern League Premier Central opener tomorrow (3pm).

“Obviously on the first day of the season you want to get off to a good start if you can.

“We’ll be going there expecting a really tough game which it’s going to be but we’ll be full of confidence with new bodies in the group and hopefully we can put on a really good performance.”

Of their overall aspirations for the campaign, he said: “I always aim for the stars, look, I want to be right up there.

“It would be great to be promoted, winning it is probably a long shot, as there are lots of big clubs in this league with big budgets, but we want to be one of them teams in and around the play-offs, that is where we will be aiming for.

“The aim from the club’s perspective is we just want to improve season on season.”

Noah Collard and Tom Fitzgerald, the latter who rolled an ankle in the 2-2 draw at Felixstowe & Walton United last Friday, are both rated as doubtful for the season opener.

Meanwhile, record appearance maker Luke Ingram is not set to be seen ‘for several weeks’ after having work done to repair cartilage in his knee over the summer and Bryon Lawrence is set to undergo another operation on his double broken leg.