Newmarket Town manager may make changes after cup semi-final defeat
A downbeat Michael Shinn conceded that changes may need to be made after his Newmarket Town side exited the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup at the semi-final stage with a 2-0 defeat to lower-league March Town United on Tuesday night.
It is the second time in as many seasons that the Jockeys have bowed out of a cup competition in the last four at home to Step 6 opposition, following on from the 2019 disappointment at the hands of Fakenham Town.
Shinn is well aware that chances like that do not come around too often, and with his side having also lost a little bit of ground in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division promotion race after back-to-back defeats, doubts are starting to creep in.
“To this point we have done okay, but we are now three defeats on the bounce. You can say we have got injuries and people missing, but it is so disappointing,” said the player-manager, whose side played for more than an hour against 10 men after March’s Tarren Moxon was handed his marching orders.
“Fair play to March, they played really well in the first half but let’s not forget they had 10 men for a long time. They still deserved to win the game and although we huffed and puffed in the second half, when it really mattered we were well short.
“Maybe we need to make some changes. I do not want to manage a club that just comes close when it really matters. Are we brave enough? Do we freeze?
“What if we get to the last couple of games of the season and we are in with a chance (of promotion)? Will we freeze then?
“I do not like knocking players because I am out there playing as well, so I am very much part of it.
“I said after the last two defeats when we have not played well – and at half-time tonight – that things need to change. We gave it a little go in the second half but there was too many poor decisions across the pitch.
“No disrespect, but we have played Great Shelford, CUP and March in this cup. If you could have hand-picked a route to the final that would have been it.
“Football can be horrible and tonight is one of those nights. There is no problem with losing games of football, it is the manner in which you lose them. It feels a bit like we have accepted three defeats.”
After Newmarket’s Jack Chandler had headed straight at March goalkeeper Charlie Congreve early on, the away side broke the deadlock in the 25th minute.
With Jack Friend and Craig Gillies – a partnership worth almost 60 goals this term – on the bench, Toby Allen took over the scoring mantle with a low finish from just inside the box that wrong footed Alex Archer in the home goal.
Seven minutes in Moxon was given a straight red card for a foul on Chandler, but even a numerical advantage failed to spring Newmarket into life. As expected, they dominated possession but clear chances were at a premium.
Chandler went closest in the 54th minute with a header that hit the upright, while Ben Robinson saw his later header cleared off the line.
To March’s credit, they remained organised and resolute after Moxon’s dismissal and they were rewarded in the second minute of stoppage time with a tie-clinching goal.
Friend – on as an 82nd-minute substitute – broke clear and when he needed to show some composure he did just that with a chipped finish from 20 yards out that drifted over a stranded Archer and into the net.
* Newmarket now have the chance get back on track with two Premier Division games within the space of 72 hours.
On Saturday they make the long trip to the Norfolk coast to take on bottom side Gorleston (3pm).
The Greens have lost their last six games in a row, with their last victory coming on Boxing Day at the expense of Kirkley & Pakefield.
And that outing is followed on Tuesday by a short trip down the A11 to take on Mildenhall Town (7.45pm).
In December’s reverse fixture Mildenhall inflicted what was a first home defeat of the season on Newmarket with a James Hall brace sealing a 2-1 win.
It was a particularly frustrating evening for the home side, who rattled the woodwork on no less than four occasions.