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Needham Market controversially exit FA Trophy

Needham Market say they had no option but to withdraw from this year’s FA Trophy – and left with a parting shot at competition chiefs.

The Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central side made the 464-mile round trip to Weymouth for a first round tie on Saturday, only for the match to be postponed shortly before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch.

The game was then rearranged for Tuesday but with their players requiring two days off work to fulfil the fixture, the Marketmen opted instead to pull out of the competition, while at the same time hitting out at FA chiefs for not considering a compromise rearrangement.

“We consider that it is completely unreasonable to attempt to play this fixture on Tuesday December 18,” the Suffolk club said in a statement.

“Our players and staff had to take a half day’s leave from their employment on Friday December 14 to travel down to Weymouth. For us to request that our players and staff take a further one and a half or two days leave on Tuesday and Wednesday (December 18-19) in the week preceding Christmas is considered unfair on them and their employers.

“Having experienced the travelling time on Friday/Saturday (14-15) which resulted in a journey slightly in excess of seven hours each way, it would be necessary to leave Needham Market at 11.00 am on Tuesday 18th and arrive back at the club at approximately 05.30 am on the morning of Wednesday 19th.

“Factor in that a number of our players reside in north Norfolk, this would result in additional travelling in excess of one hour for those players, which makes it apparent that two days holiday would be required for them.

“In addition, and after looking at the weather forecast for the South coast area, it is extremely likely that the match will, once again, be postponed.

The Marketmen say they offered to play the game on either of the three Saturdays available before the second round ties take place, only for that too to be rejected.

“We consider that this decision fails to take account of the practical problems that would be incurred and, in addition, fails to display even a basic level of common sense,” the statement continued.

“If rules are to be applied in such an unconsidered manner then the FA Panel should be replaced by a computer.

“Co-operation from Weymouth which has sadly been lacking plus making the necessary arrangements with the Evo-Stik League would have enabled the fixture to proceed as per our proposals, but unfortunately self-interest has prevailed.”

A Football Association spokesperson responded: “We understand the challenges that a postponed match can have.

“However, for fairness to all clubs in the competition and to prevent causing disruption to other competitions, we must ensure that rearranged matches are scheduled within the rules of the competition.

“In this case, the rearranged match was scheduled to be played on Tuesday 18 December. Subsequently, Needham Market FC decided they could not fulfil this fixture and therefore chose to withdraw from the competition.”

Weymouth, as a result, make the trip to Ramsbottom United for their last 32 tie, on January 12.

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