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Newmarket Town keen to halt their semi-final losing streak against Lakenheath

After three near misses, player-manager Michael Shinn is eager to see Newmarket Town finally end their semi-final hoodoo on Tuesday evening (7.45pm).

The Jockeys were arguably the favourites heading into all of their last four meetings in recent seasons, against March Town United, Fakenham Town and Ely City, but on each occasion they came up short.

This time around it is Lakenheath that are standing in their way of reaching the final of the Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup, which is scheduled to take place against either Ipswich Wanderers or Woodbridge Town at Hadleigh United Football Club on Monday, May 1.

Michael Shinn's Newmarket Town have lost their last three semi-final ties. Picture: Mark Westley
Michael Shinn's Newmarket Town have lost their last three semi-final ties. Picture: Mark Westley

And having endured an inconsistent Premier Division campaign, Shinn is hoping that his side can end 2022/23 on a high.

“Reaching three semi-finals – and now four – is a good achievement but we need to be getting to finals,” he said. “If we want to be seen as a serious team then you need to be getting in the top three of the league and winning cups.

“We’ve come close but that’s not enough. You need to find that desire and realise how important it is to reach cup finals and win them. I realise that as a manager so hopefully the players do as well.”

In contrast to Newmarket, hosts Lakenheath have enjoyed a positive league campaign and have eyes on an impressive top four finish.

Shinn’s side have had the upper hand in the two league meetings though, drawing 1-1 at home before racking up an eye-catching 4-0 win at Tuesday’s venue in January.

However, Shinn, who will be without injured leading goalscorer Lewis Whitehead, does not expect those games to have much of an impact on the tie, and nor does he anticipate his team being bogged down by the previous semi-final disappointments.

“The March defeat was on penalties when anything can happen and the Ely game was just dreadful,” he added. “But it’s really difficult to compare too much because it’s going to be a completely different 11 players going into this game.

“We won really well at Lakenheath and it summed us up in a lot of ways. You never know what you’re going to get. We can turn in a performance like that and the next week not show up at all.

“They’re a good side and have found some good form, but it’s going to be different players in the starting line-up again I would imagine so the past is not that important.”

With the rescheduling of fixtures due to postponements and the Football Association opting not to extend the season, Newmarket’s trip to Lakenheath will mark their fourth game in 11 days.

Many teams have much busier schedules, though Shinn could still be forgiven for wanting to have a bit more time before playing such an important match.

And yet he has warned his players that he will not allow the added fixtures to be used as an excuse.

He said: “I know these lads are only semi-professional but playing football is the best job in the world.

“When I played for Dartford a few years back we played Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for almost four weeks and I loved it.

“I know the players have got work but they should enjoy it. When you sign at the start of the season you know things like this could happen and part of the reason we’ve got these games is because we’ve had a good cup run, so what is the problem?

“It was not that long ago that we missed a year or more of football because of Covid so I won’t be hearing complaints. We’re playing Wednesday, Saturday and then Lakenheath on the Tuesday before the league season ends on Saturday. And then hopefully we have a cup final to come – I want the lads to embrace that.”