Predicting where Suffolk's non-league sides will finish this season
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
The new non-league football season gets underway this weekend and Suffolk's non-league scene is in rude health right now.
There are a plethora of top Suffolk sides gracing non-league, two at Step three, five at Step four and many more at Steps five, six and below. MIKE BACON caught up with former Leiston, Needham and AFC Sudbury boss MARK MORSLEY to get his low-down on the season ahead.
STEP 3 - Southern League Central Premier
Last season the Blues were the top dogs in Suffolk following their seventh-placed league finish.
This was helped by the small number of drawn games. Maybe they took a few chances in games making it exciting to watch? On the flip side their goal difference was a disappointment (-6). For the coming season, to improve this, I think they need to add some experienced Step three players. They have promoted a few from the ranks of their reserves and that is commendable for a longer-term view. However, for this season I feel Leiston may find it a bit tough. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 15th.
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Last season was a memorable one for the Marketmen with their brilliant FA Trophy run.
But I would imagine their league performance was a disappointment. I have made no secret of my great love of Needham and the people there and I really hope they can achieve a play-off place. However, using my head rather than my heart, I am concerned by the lack of new players joining the club (at the time of writing) to replace those who have left. Yes, they have great talent in their excellent academy, but I am not sure that will be enough for a top finish. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 14th.
STEP 4 - Isthmian North
Last season AFC had an unbelievable FA Cup run but possibly underachieved in the league.
They have taken a different view in terms of their recruitment of late, I guess the increase in their financial position from the FA Cup, means they do not need to be so reliant on their excellent academy. With that comes expectation and I am sure the support base will want to see a championship-winning season. I'm not sure they have the squad that can provide that. I think they will continue to be decent in defence and keeping Joe Grimwood is a big plus. There is a lot of expectation on the shoulders of Josh Mayhew, who has a great track record in front of goal. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 7th.
Bury are going through a bit of a re-build, although they are a great club, with a great manager and excellent support.
A very good team was somewhat spoiled by the pandemic and since then they have been inconsistent. They have made some new signings all at the right age and bags of potential, plus they have kept Cemal Ramadan a top striker. They could possibly be a surprise package this year with the connection to Ipswich Town important. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 12th.
FELIXSTOWE & WALTON UNITED
I'm a real fan of the Seasiders, and they finished last season like a train.
Stuart Boardley has put together a great mix of experience and youth and for me signing Callum Harrison could be a game changer. A good start is massive and also a bit of luck with injuries to key players is important as I am not sure that they have massive depth in their squad. I was concerned when their U23’s pulled out of the Essex & Suffolk Border League towards the end of last season, so there may not be a large number of developing youngsters. Saying all that I do believe they will make the play offs. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 4th.
I guess it will be how the Trawlerboys deal with relegation that will define their season but I think they will be fine.
They have the support base, additional funds following the news that Gorleston will play their games at Crown Meadow, and some decent signings, best for me being Chris Henderson. Jamie Godbold will also want to have a great season as he continues his management career without long-term side-kick Andy Reynolds. I feel they will have a good season and maybe will get in the play offs but miss out. That might not be a bad thing after the last few years. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 5th.
On paper, Stowmarket look to be a very strong outfit.
Their rise from the mediocrity of Step 6 to where they are today has been eye-opening. This has injected expectation and key financing, plus a good support base. However, that could be tough to live up to. I feel that was their weakness last season, but saying that Paul Musgrove will be a better manager for the play-off heartbreak and backed by the excellent Richard Wilkins, it could be a memorable season. The signing of Ed Upson is a big coup. I believe they can be top dogs. Morsley's finishing thoughts – Champions!
STEP 5 - Eastern Counties Premier
One of my ex-players, Pip Boyland, has taken over at my local club Brantham. They are a great club with a top top chairman but struggled last year. A few players have left to join ex-boss Michael Brothers at Little Oakley, but it will allow Pip to put his mark on the team. He has some decent youngsters and they will have a much improved season, I believe. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 9th.
In the end Hadleigh survived relatively easily last season and they are going to have to work hard again to avoid a run in the bottom half. In Steve Holder they have an excellent manager and with Liam Scopes joining him, as well as signing Jack Baker, they have plenty of experience. However, I still think it could be a tricky season. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 19th.
Liam Aves is building slowly at Haverhill and is a young manager I know well and has great potential. I believe Rovers will give him time to build and I think they will be pleased with a solid mid-table position this time. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 13th.
Wanderers had an impressive season last year and are clearly well financed so they will go close. If Matt Blake can find his best form he could score more than 30 goals and could take them all the way. Expectation is rightly high - and why not? Morsley's finishing thoughts – Champions!
KIRKLEY & PAKEFIELD
On their day, one of the best teams in the division as their results last season showed as they toppled almost all the top clubs. Inconsistency has been their downfall now for a few seasons though. They'll be solid again. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 6th.
One of the success stories of the last few years in Suffolk non-league. Heath have a solid team and excellent manager, as well as the best goalkeeper in the league in my opinion, in Charlie Beckwith. Proving a good cup team as well. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 11th.
Survived the drop last season, despite finishing in the bottom two and hopefully the Villagers will make the most of their reprieve. But, I think it will be tough again for them. Ironically, doubled champions Gorleston last season. So, they can do it. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 20th.
Town have a new manager in Phil Weavers who was a very decent defender. I feel he will help to tighten up their defence and that may get them one place higher than last year. Will be there or thereabouts all campaign. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 2nd.
In Michael Shinn the Jockeys have a superb player/manager and they enjoyed some very impressive results in a mixed season last year. Expect them to be much higher up the table this time round. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 3rd.
Walsham had a great season last time out, with a team with good balance of experience and youth, plus they are another team who have a great manager, this time in Trevor Collins. If Ian Miller continues they could be in the mix once more. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 8th.
Plenty of new signings at Whitton and plenty of good ones as well, under a new broom with Tom Camp at the helm. Lots of players to bed in but I feel Whitton will enjoy a better season than last. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 14th.
With former Ipswich Town man Luke Hyam at the helm, the Woodpeckers will want to improve on what was a very mixed bag last time out. Renowned for always playing attractive football, not sure they have enough for a title tilt. Morsley's finishing thoughts – 10th.