Kevin Grainger believes having ‘too many good players’ was a factor in their promotion aspirations going up in smoke before Christmas.
The Jockeys were seen as likely front-runners for this season’s expanded promotion picture, with two places available from the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, following a busy summer of recruiting players with higher-level experience.
But a run of four straight league defeats — the latest 2-0 at home to Saffron Walden Town on Saturday — has seen them slide from second to ninth and nine points off the top two with Coggeshall in second having three games in hand.
And it has left manager Grainger admitting their chase is up.
“At the moment we are all very frustrated as I felt I had assembled a squad which could push for promotion, but it hasn’t happened,” he said.
“We will be looking to finish as high as we can and look to next season now.
“I felt we had a decent budget to have a go but the three or four clubs above us are paying ridiculous money and we cannot keep throwing money at it.
“It is obviously frustrating as two go up this year but probably out of all the teams, Felixstowe deserve it as they are getting good crowds each week and generating good income.”
Lloyd Groves (St Ives Town), Charlie Bowen (Godmanchester Rovers), Steve Holder (Mildenhall Town), Deakan Napier (Ely City), and most recently, Ryan McGeorge (St Ives Town) have all been allowed to leave, with Grainger believing a bloated squad, as well as injuries to key players, had been to their detriment.
“We perhaps had too many good players,” he said.
“The squad had just got too big and the players were not happy if they were not playing.
“Stowmarket probably suffered with that at the start as well and it was only when they changed four or five players that they went on their run.
“Hopefully what it has done is left us with the 11 or 12 best players. But, unfortunately, things are just not clicking at the moment.”
He added: “We are having a tough time and have lost four on the run, which is unheard of here now. People perhaps forget we have had three or four really good years in this division, though. We have been in two cup finals and won one, which was the first in our history, we finished third last year, sixth the year before and ninth the year before that.”
Newmarket head into Saturday’s game at seventh place Histon Reserves (3pm) look to end a run of six straight defeats in all competitions, having gone down to a 3-1 loss at Coggeshall in the League Challenge Cup on Tuesday, despite Jack Watson having fired them into an early lead.