Craig Fleming - Lowestoft Town bidding to turn play-off pain into gain

Lowestoft Town director of football Craig Fleming.

Lowestoft Town director of football Craig Fleming. - Credit: James Bass

Lowestoft Town director of football Craig Fleming believes the Blues can use previous play-off pain to their advantage against East Thurrock at Crown Meadow this evening (kick-off 7.45pm).

The Trawlerboys have seen their hopes of Conference football dashed by play-off final defeats to Tonbridge Angels and AFC Hornchurch in the last two seasons.

However, Fleming is confident his side can make it third time lucky ahead of their play-off semi-final against East Thurrock tonight.

'Hopefully the lads can use that hurt as a positive and not fear it,' said the 41-year-old, whose side had to play more than a quarter of their season in April due to a series of postponements at the start of the year. 'It is just a lottery – you go out and prepare properly and just hope that on that day that it comes off for you.

'Hopefully the lads' legs will be all right by then and it can work for us.'

Lowestoft's 1-0 win against Hendon on Saturday sealed the runners-up spot to ensure home advantage this evening.

In the two seasons Lowestoft have operated in the Ryman League Premier, the team that has finished second has gone on to win promotion with the Trawlerboys set for a final at Crown Meadow next Monday if they are successful over East Thurrock.

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Home advantage has proved key in the past but Fleming is wary of the threat posed by the Rocks after their late surge to gain the final play-off berth.

'History says that normally the second team is the one that goes up,' said the former Norwich City defender.

'But I just think we've got four sides that are going to be going at it full tilt and anything can happen.

'It's a slight advantage but it's not as big as people make out – it's nice not having to travel.

'East Thurrock are certainly the form side of the division – they've come from nowhere really. In the latter part of the season they have flown up the table.

'(Sam) Higgins up top has scored a lot of goals at this level for a long time and will be a threat – it's going to be a tough game.'

Hakeem Araba is a doubt after pulling up in the warm-up against Hendon with a groin injury. In the absence of Jack Defty, who broke his leg against Bury earlier this month, the Blues have been looking to the former Whitehawk man for goals.

However, should Araba be only fit for the bench, Michael Frew will start up front alongside Chris Henderson.

Dan Gleeson will come back into the squad after being rested against Hendon but Sam Gaughran is likely to miss out with a hamstring injury.

The sheer volume of games has taken its toll on Fleming's squad over the past month and he hopes the Crown Meadow faithful will help compensate for the fatigue his squad are feeling.

'They really got behind us against Hendon and they really can make a difference to the boys,' he said. 'It's up to us as well – we will want to start well and really get them behind us.'

Wealdstone host Concord Rangers in the other play-off semi-final.