Lowestoft won’t feel the pressure as they look to make it fourth time lucky in play-offs
06:17 05 May 2014
© Archant Norfolk 2012
Working on the garden, spending all day in the pub, getting stuck in a traffic jam on the A47 - the May Bank Holiday can mean a multitude of different things to people - but not to Lowestoft Town fans.
The May Bank Holiday has characterised only heartache and despair over the last three years following successive defeats in the Ryman League play-off final.
By late this afternoon the painful memories of losses to Tonbridge Angels, AFC Hornchurch and Concord Rangers will be either consigned to history amid scenes of jubilation or added to for another miserable chapter in the Blues’ recent history.
The latter notion is almost too much to bear thinking about but there is a different feel around the Trawlerboys this year.
In previous years, Lowestoft have stuttered into the play-offs having had to come to terms with missing out on the title and autmatic promotion. This season, Craig Fleming’s men were out of the running at the end of 2013 - barely spoken about in the race for the play-offs.
Just two defeats in 19 games saw them secure a play-off place on the last day of the season and a superb 2-1 win at Bognor Regis on Wednesday night has set up another chance of achieving Conference football.
AFC Hornchurch stand in their way again, just as they did in 2012, but director of football Craig Fleming believes the momentum is with his side on this occasion.
“This season has been a bit different because I think at some points people didn’t expect us to make it to the play-offs,” said Fleming. “But we’ve been on a brilliant run to make it there and we’ve given ourselves a great opportunity again.
“We’re not going into these matches on a downer and I think we showed that against Bognor. There’s just one more hurdle for us to jump and we’re fully focused on getting the job done.”
Fleming feels his squad have been blighted by the weight of expectation in previous seasons but feels, whatever the outcome this afternoon, his players can be proud of their efforts this season.
“In previous years the whole club has been so obsessed with promotion that it would weigh the players down,” said the former Norwich City defender, who has been forced to work within tighter financial constraints this season compared to previous year. “This season has been a bit different because I think at some points people didn’t expect us to make it to the play-offs.
“We’ve just been telling the lads to go out and play their natural game. Of course we would love to be promoted but it’s not the end of the world if we’re not – life goes on.
“Whatever happens the players have been absolutely amazing this season. They shouldn’t feel under pressure because they have already done themselves proud with the way they have handled themselves this season.”
Fleming hopes that home advantage could play a part against the Urchins, who Lowestoft beat 3-0 at Crown Meadow earlier this season.
However, the Blues know only too well it is no guarantee of success as Concord Rangers upset the odds in Suffolk last season with a 2-1 win.
“It’s a small advantage, of course it is, but we are playing against a side that is very good away from home,” said Fleming.
“Home advantage can only count for so much. Look at the semi-finals, both away teams went through so it’s not the big advantage many people think it is.
“We know Hornchurch are a very good, physical side and we’re going to have to match that.”
Whilst the players strain every sinew in pursuit of promotion, Fleming has called on the fans to play their part. A crowd in excess of 2,000 is expected and the Lowestoft chief hopes they can roar his side to victory.
“They can be a massive help – in years gone by it has been like unless we’re winning the league then we’ve been a failure. But I think they realise this season what we have achieved is amazing. We just want them to get behind us as they have been.”