UPDATED: Needham Market won't appeal but remain furious with Witham Town as Morsley considers his position
© Steve Waller
Needham Market and Witham Town have become embroiled in a bitter war of words that has left the Marketmen's boss Mark Morsley considering his future as a manager.
Witham were 1-0 winners in Tuesday’s Ryman League Division One North semi-final game between the clubs at Spa Road, booking their place in Sunday’s final at home to Harlow Town.
The game was settled by Kris Newby’s 88th-minute winner, but Needham, who won’t be making any appeal, are furious that their player, Lee Townrow, turned out for his current loan club against them.
Townrow joined Garry Kimble’s side in February, until May 5, and sat out Witham’s defeat at Needham last month as part of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that he didn’t play in the league against his parent club.
However, Townrow, for whom Needham are paying a third of his wages, did play in Tuesday’s game after Morsley chose not to recall the defender before the semi-final clash.
Witham chairman Tony Last revealed his club was given the green light by the Football Association (FA) and the Ryman League to play Townrow.
He added that no agreement was ever put in writing and said the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was only put in place for the league and not the play-offs.
But Morsley said: “It’s the single most disgusting thing I have ever come across.
“The non-league management scene is a close-knit community and there is an unwritten rule about loan players featuring against parent clubs.
“We had an agreement that Lee did not play against us in the league and had the agreement for last night (Tuesday) and there was a text conversation between myself and Garry which I have printed out.
“I cannot quite articulate how I feel and I did not want to play the game when I found out (about Townrow’s inclusion) before the game.
“I did not want to be a part of that but my players did and I supported their decision.
“It’s not a life and death situation but the whole thing has left a sour taste and left me considering my position as a manager.
“It’s not the fact that we have lost the game and I would be saying the same things had we gone through.”
Witham chairman Last, meanwhile, is preparing for Sunday’s promotion decider with Harlow and insists his club did nothing wrong.
“No rules were broken at all,” said Last.
“I look after my club and do the best for my club.
“I will do what it takes to get my club into the play-offs.
“I am sorry Mark Morsley is not happy but the play-offs are a cup competition. The league ended on April 26.”
Kimble was unavailable for comment when contacted by this paper on Tuesday.