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Newmarket Town to host Mulbarton Wanderers in Thurlow Nunn League Play-Off Final this weekend following U-turn by clubs as FA cut-off approaches





Newmarket Town are now set to host Mulbarton Wanderers in their Thurlow Nunn League Play-Off final tomorrow (Saturday, 3pm) after the clubs did a U-turn on the date to make sure they beat the Football Association’s cut-off.

The latest announcement of the fixture was made by the clubs last night in a fresh twist on a what has been a long-running saga in their quest to win what for both would be a historic place at Step 4 of the non-league pyramid.

Newmarket had originally been set to host Thetford Town at the start of the bank holiday weekend on May 4 before Thetford were expelled from the competition for fielding a banned player, Josh Wells, in their semi-final victory against Mulbarton.

Newmarket Town last played in their home semi-fnal with Dereham Town on April 27, recording a 3-1 victory Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket Town last played in their home semi-fnal with Dereham Town on April 27, recording a 3-1 victory Picture: Mark Westley

The Brecklanders successfully appealed the decision to remove them with the FA on the grounds they were not aware of the ban, which had been due to an incident when Wells had been playing for Newmarket in February.

Thetford were reinstated in the competition and had to replay their semi-final at Mulbarton on Tuesday, which saw them lose this time, 2-1.

Thurlow Nunn League chairman Peter Hutchings had then told SuffolkNews the final would not take place on Saturday (May 18) due to both clubs not having players available.

Newmarket Town manager Michael Shinn will be hoping to make their home advantage count in Saturday’s hastily-arranged play-off final Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket Town manager Michael Shinn will be hoping to make their home advantage count in Saturday’s hastily-arranged play-off final Picture: Mark Westley

But with the FA having imposed a deadline of Friday, May 24 for the fixture to be played, a week today, and Newmarket being due to have maintenance work getting under way on their pitch early next week, both clubs have now decided to go ahead with this weekend.

Hutchings said: “Once Mulbarton got through they had dates that they could make and couldn’t make and Newmaket had dates that they could and couldn’t make and we had a complete impasse. We were going nowhere fast.

“Then Wednesday lunchtime we got an email from the Newmarket chairman saying that they would be prepared to play on Saturday the 18th and then the league contacted both clubs again yesterday morning to see whether that was workable.

“Mulbarton came back saying it wasn’t ideal but they could bring a restricted squad and get it done.

“So up until Wednesday lunchtime we had understood that Newmarket were not available on Saturday the 18th because players were away.

“Mulbarton were similarly handicapped, shall we say, but it all fell into place yesterday.”

He added: “There was a lot of difficulties such as Newmarket’s pitch availability. As they said, they finished eight points clear in second place and they wanted to keep home advantage and I don’t blame them for that.

“Just trying to find a date was proving impossible until we had a little bit of movement on Wednesday lunchtime, and we are grateful for the co-operation of both clubs.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Newmarket manager Michael Shinn had told SuffolkNews: “Whenever we end up playing we’ll prepare the best we can under the circumstances.

“It’s not been handled great and we still don’t know a date. It’s holiday season and players are not around.

“We had some good momentum but we’re still confident we can get over the line.”

Newmarket have confirmed cash or card will be accepted on the gate tomorrow while Thurlow Nunn League president John Day is set to do the presentations at the end of the final.