Stowmarket Town boss Paul Musgrove still focused on promotion via top spot following home draws to Barking and Maldon & Tiptree
A punishing four days has left Stowmarket Town seven points adrift of leaders Aveley with one game in hand turning into the final straight – but Paul Musgrove is far from giving up on the title and automatic promotion.
The Old & Blacks manager remains hopeful despite seeing his side lose a lead on their home turf twice in the space of fours days to claim just two points from games against Barking (2-2 on Saturday) and Maldon & Tiptree (1-1 last night).
Asked if it had left them too much to do with five games now remaining of their season, he replied: “No. You never know with football, do you? Look, we’re never going to give up until it’s impossible for us not to win it and we’ve just got to concentrate on each game as it comes.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got everyone available and everyone has got the mentality as they did have tonight.”
The torture for Stow fans began on Saturday when news broke ahead of kick-off with relegation-threatened Barking they would have to give up their long-awaited return to a Suffolk Premier Cup Final due to fielding ineligible players.
Last Wednesday’s impressive 3-0 victory over high-league Leiston came with two debutants taking to the field in Ipswich Town loanee Tommy Smith and left-back Maliq Jikemi. But it emerged neither had been registered in time in a ruling which prevents teams from boosting the quality of their side to increases their chances of reaching a final.
“The chairman has put a statement out and to be honest there is not a lot to add to it,” said Musgrove with Leiston now set to take their place in the showpiece at Colchester United FC against the winner’s of next Tuesday’s semi-final between Needham Market and Kirkley & Pakefield.
“Errors happen and people have got to realise there is volunteers at clubs and things happen.
“Yes, it is a sickener for me as a manager; a Premier Cup final would have been great but I’m not going to sit here pointing fingers because everyone makes mistakes and we’ve just got to make sure it never happens again.”
Stow’s players looked to have responded in the right fashion to the news with Josh Mayhew’s early opener against Barking added to on the hour-hour mark by Willie Clemons.
But the second half saw their lead wiped out with Barking replying through Kenedi Dariri in the 59th minute before Sam Shaban’s equaliser three minutes from time.
“We did tail off after half-time for whatever reason,” said Musgrove.
“It was evident to see we didn’t deal with their strengths which was just an aerial bombardment at times. And I wasn’t very impressed with some of the pressing and space in between people. We were just disjointed at times.”
But he was far happier with Tuesday’s display which saw them go on to dominate the division’s joint-top form team over the last six games.
It looked like Clemons’ 48th minute run and cute finish was set to see them bounce back with a deserved three points.
But the Jammers, who had won five and drew one of that six-game sequence, levelled via Shamari Barnwell’s precise lob just inside the final 10 minutes.
Stow were left to reflect on a good late chance for Clemons going begging while video footage posted on social media showed Mayhew’s first half strike that had hit the underside of the bar had crossed the line.
Musgrove reflected: “We did deserve more but that’s football isn’t it? At the end of the day we’ve come out of it positive as a team.
“Maldon are definitely up there with the Aveleys and the best footballing teams we’ve played this season in both encounters so it is a point, yes it should have been three, but at the end of the day we’ve been so impressive tonight.”
With Saturday seeing them travel to third-bottom Witham Town (3pm) before Tuesday’s rearranged game at play-off chasing Felixstowe & Walton United, he said: “We’re not losing games and you’ve got to look back at the games where we have dropped points.
“Nights like tonight or the Aveley games shouldn’t be defining because they are the better teams in the league.
“It is when we go away to these other teams and Barking at home on Saturday. If you want to win leagues you cannot be losing ones against them teams.”
He added: “We’ve got to make sure we’re going for the title until its no longer possible and then we’ve got to aim to finish as high in the play-off positions as we can.
“If you look at the league it is six points from seventh up to us and that is easily lost so you’ve got to stay focused and keep our processes consistent.”
He confirmed midfielder Ben Hunter left the field with an injury ‘that could be nasty’ last night while he is unsure if Stow fans will see Joe Jefford (ankle) before end of season.