FA Cup progress at stake for Needham Market and AFC Sudbury

AFC Sudbury v Needham Market. Sudbury in yellow. Needham pressure the Sudbury goal earlier in the se

AFC Sudbury v Needham Market. Sudbury in yellow. Needham pressure the Sudbury goal earlier in the season - Credit: Archant

Needham Market manager Mark Morsley has dismissed AFC Sudbury counterpart David Batch’s claims that the Marketmen are the favourites to win this afternoon’s FA Cup tie.

The two go head to head at Needham’s Bloomfields ground and the game promises to be a tense affair with the two clubs tied on 20 points and both occupying a place in the Ryman League Division One North play-off zone.

Earlier in the season, the two sides played out a goalless draw at Sudbury and both teams are in decent form.

Needham have lost just one game in all competitions this campaign, while Sudbury have lost just one of their last 10 in league and cup.

Earlier this week, Sudbury boss Batch said: “We are looking forward to the game and it’s not often you get to play a team at your level at this stage of the Cup.

“This is a good opportunity for us although we will be the underdogs, playing against a team on the same number of points in the league as us.”

Morsley, who will hand a debut to former Arsenal goalkeeper James Shea, responded by claiming there was little to chosse between the teams.

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“David probably knows that I am one manager where that kind of comment will not have any effect,” said Morsley.

“If you look at the statistics there is nothing in the teams. We are level in the league and the 0-0 draw at Sudbury was tight.

“We are the home team so if there is a slight edge, then maybe we have it, but it is too close to call.”

The winners of the tie, either today or in a replay in midweek, will pick up a cool £7,500 in prize money and will be then just one game away from the First Round Proper which will include Football League big-guns Portsmouth, Sheffield United and Wolves.

For Morsley though, it is the prestige of going through rather than the financial carat at stake that most appeals to the former Sudbury boss.

“A lot of clubs rely on the FA Cup, Vase and Trophy right across the spectrum and once they go out of a competition, two players are immediately released,” said Morsley.

“We don’t need to do that. There is a plan in place to go forward and I have set myself my own targets at Needham in terms of increasing the crowd numbers and reaching the play-offs.

“Saturday’s game is nothing to do with finance for me, it is down to pride.

“Both teams’ managers and fans want to win this game and the £7,500 is a bit of a sideshow.”

If the tie is not settled today, the replay will be at the MEL Group Stadium on Tuesday (7.45pm), otherwise AFC will visit Bury Town in the Ryman League Cup.

Needham are due to play in the Ryman League at Aveley on Monday night.