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Jockeys aim for top six

TOP SIX: Kevin Grainger is hoping to see an improved performance from his Newmarket Town side next season
TOP SIX: Kevin Grainger is hoping to see an improved performance from his Newmarket Town side next season

Newmarket Town manager Kevin Grainger believes he is assembling a squad that will be capable of challenging for a top-six finish in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division next season.

A poor run of form towards the back end of the 2015-16 campaign saw the Jockeys slump to a 13th-placed finish, just four points better off than third from bottom Swaffham Town.

Grainger moved swiftly at the start of the summer to halt the decline, swooping for Lakenheath centre-forward Matt Hayden, Over defender James Chivers and experienced goalkeeper Ben Nower.

Now, the Newmarket boss has bolstered his squad further with the additions of Lewis Whitehead and Jack Watson.

Striker Whitehead has returned to the club following a four-year absence, during which time he has played for the likes of Cambridge University Press and Great Shelford.

Last term, the frontman scored 23 goals in 25 outings for Shelford.

Meanwhile, Watson is a midfield player that has linked up with Grainger’s men after recent stints with Soham Town Rangers and Godmanchester Rovers.

With five new faces already on board, Grainger has his eyes fixed on securing a place in the higher echelons of the division.

“We want to be finishing in that top six at least,” he said.

“I have had a squad capable of that for the last three seasons, but we have had key injuries and that is frustrating.

“Lewis has gone away and improved. He was not far away before, so I have no doubt he will score plenty of goals.

“In Jack, we have one of the best holding midfielders in the league with bags of experience.

“I was keen to sign both of these players because they will help us get to where we want to be.”

It appears to be a positive time both on and off the pitch for Newmarket, who are close to unveiling their revamped and newly-named Ridgeons Stadium.

The facility includes the country’s first ever cork-filled 3G pitch, new dressing rooms and ultra-efficient flat glass LED floodlights.

Grainger has admitted that those enhancements have helped to attract the quintet of additions, with more potentially arriving before the new season gets underway.

“Normally when you have a list of six or seven targets, you tend to get a maximum of two,” he added. “But, the facilities have helped to increase that return. The players like what we are doing here. We may end up signing two or three more, although it has to be the right player because we have a very strong squad now.

“The centre of defence and out wide is where we are looking to add, if at all.”

n Tickets are now on sale for Newmarket’s pre-season friendly against Cambridge United on Tuesday, July 19 (7.15pm).

They can be purchased on Cambridge’s official website, or from Kevin Parsons at the Racing Centre on Fred Archer Way.

The game, which will be the club’s first since the improvements, is all ticket.

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