Manager Kevin Grainger has conceded his Newmarket Town side have a ‘massive challenge’ on their hands if they are to fulfil their pre-season target of securing promotion.
Last term’s third-placed finish — coupled with a number of new arrivals over the summer — had meant optimism was rife ahead of the 2017/18 campaign getting under way.
And the club’s chances of being elevated up to Step 4 were further boosted by the news that a non-league restructure meant two teams would be going up this season.
However, having collected four points from the last 12 on offer, the Jockeys are 22 points adrift of league-leading Felixstowe & Walton United and seven behind second-placed Stowmarket Town.
Newmarket’s latest disappointment — a 3-2 home loss to Long Melford having been two goals up on Saturday — left Grainger particularly frustrated, branding his team’s second-half display as ‘embarrassing’ and of a ‘Sunday league’ standard.
And the manager has conceded his team need to rid themselves of those traits quickly if they are to get their push for promotion back on track.
“We have been disappointing and a bit disjointed for a few weeks now,” said Grainger.
“There have been injuries as well, but that is no excuse for what happened against Melford. It was Sunday league stuff — an embarrassing performance in the second half.
“It is hard to put your finger on what is going on because we have some very good players.
“I think teams like playing against us — they raise their games when they come to us and what should be home bankers are not turning out to be like that.
“It is a massive challenge to get up now. We need to go on a run, which any team can do — just look at Stowmarket.
“We are capable of doing that, but we need to improve.”
One player Grainger believes could help to improve Newmarket’s fortunes is Lewis Whitehead.
The striker netted an impressive 34 goals in all competitions last term, but has spent the last few weeks on the sideline through injury.
Grainger is hoping to have his main marksman available soon, saying: “He has been struggling for eight weeks now.
“It has been a massive blow but we are hoping for positive news in the near future.
“We have missed him massively — his movement and hold up play is fantastic.”
n In transfer news, Steve Holder and Deakan Napier have left Newmarket for Mildenhall Town and Ely City respectively, while midfielder Ryan Phillips has arrived from Haverhill Borough.