Lowestoft Town will handle play-off pressure - Craig Fleming
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012
Lowestoft Town director of football Craig Fleming is backing his players to thrive on the “sudden death” scenario this evening when the Blues take on Wealdstone in the Ryman League Premier play-off semi-final at Crown Meadow, kick-off 7.45pm.
The dream of a place in the Conference set-up is still on for the Trawlerboys despite being pipped to the league title by Billericay Town, who they thrashed 4-1 on Saturday.
And Fleming believes he has the players at his disposal to see off the Stones and win through to the play-off final, which takes place on Monday.
“It all comes down to this – it’s sudden death I suppose,” said Fleming, whose side experienced play-off heartache last season when they lost to Tonbridge Angels in the final. “Form goes out the window in these types of games and whoever deals with the pressure best will go through.
“It could come down to a moment of brilliance, a mistake or a refereeing mistake – we are just delighted we’ve got a fully fit squad to choose from.
“I was saying the other day that I cannot remember the last time everyone was available – that’s a nice position to be in at the right time.
“We had to leave two or three players out of the squad against Billericay because we had a lot of quality available.”
With Matt Nolan short of fitness following a knee injury, Michael Frew has pushed himself to the front of the queue to start up front alongside Chris Henderson.
Three goals in his last two games means Frew may be given the nod while the return from injury of midfielder Dale Cockrill has also come just at the right time.
“Frewy has picked up a bit of form, which is good to see and to see Dale back is a massive boost for us,” added Fleming. “He is such a good player but for the best part of two seasons he has been unavailable, which has been a real shame.
“He gives us a bit of drive through the heart of the midfield and we will have to see how he settles down after Saturday to see if he can play a part. His match fitness isn’t obviously where it needs to be after such a long time out.
“As a management team we’ve got some big decisions to make.”
In their two meetings in the league this season Lowestoft drew 0-0 at St Georges Stadium and won 2-1 at Crown Meadow in January with Joe Francis getting the winner from the spot in the second half.
It could all come down to spot-kicks if the match is level after extra time and Fleming admitted the Blues have been practising penalties should it go the distance.
“We’ve been practising them through the season but the truth is that you can’t replicate that sort of pressure situation,” said the former Norwich City star. “In training you’re relaxed and it’s a world away from a situation where you’ve got to score.”
Wealdstone go into the match in excellent form having won five matches in a row to secure their place in the play-offs but Fleming is sure his players will rise to the occasion.
“They just need to remember to do what they are good at doing. Don’t complicate things just because of the occasion.
“It will feel different but these are the sorts of situations you are in football for – it’s what I miss about playing and these lads are fortunate to be in this situation. It’s what you play the game for.”