Dereham Town can clinch historic Thurlow Nunn Premier Division title with draw against Wisbech Town
- Credit: IAN BURT
One point is all Dereham Town need to create history tonight by winning their first Thurlow Nunn Premier Division title.
The Magpies, who only stepped up to the Eastern Counties League set-up in 1998, can clinch the championship with three games to spare by drawing at home to their nearest rivals Wisbech Town.
Matt Henman's men sit seven points ahead of the Fenmen having played a game less and know they can get their promotion party started at Aldiss Park as long as they do not lose.
The Dereham boss said: 'I think it's very important we make sure we don't celebrate. We haven't won anything yet. We're in a fantastic position and we can go into tonight with no pressure on us as such, other than the pressure we put on ourselves. But it's a great opportunity to finish it off in style.
'We want to try and win it at the earliest possible opportunity for a number of reasons. It stops putting pressure on the players who have had a long hard season and put in a massive amount of effort. It gives them a little bit of a break mentally and physically for the last three games too.'
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Dereham's scintillating form continued at the weekend when they recorded their 11th consecutive league victory to move themselves within touching distance of glory.
While they were enjoying a 4-1 triumph at Wivenhoe, Steve Appleby's Wisbech were losing by the same scoreline at Hadleigh. Those results have left his side plenty of margin for error, but Henman insists he wants the champagne corks to be popping come the final whistle.
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'It doesn't matter when we do it, just as long as we do it, but we'd be elated to win it against Wisbech, who should take that as a compliment,' said the Magpies boss. 'To do it against one of our rivals, who have pushed us all the way, would be the icing on the cake. Wisbech are a great club, a great side, and have got a great manager who is a really solid guy and shows a lot of class.
'I hope both clubs can go on to get promotion as we deserve it. We've had to work unbelievably hard to see them off as they've kept winning games but we're not taking anything for granted. It might not be a title decider now, but you're always guaranteed a really tough game against Wisbech and I expect nothing different tonight.'
Defender Matt Howard should return to the Magpies' starting line-up after being rested on Saturday. Shaun Bammant (hamstring) and Luke Hannant (knee) are doubtful.
The Fenmen will be without Stacy Cartwright (bad back) and while their boss Appleby admits the title is all-but Dereham's already, he is desperate to delay their inevitable celebrations.
The Wisbech boss said: 'There's no way Dereham will lose it now. It's done and dusted. What we have to make sure is that we finish second.
'We also don't want, through pride more than anything, them being presented the trophy and celebrating in front of our noses. It was a bad day on Saturday and I'm looking for a massive reaction. If we can get a win it will take some of the pressure off Saturday when we've got to play Brantham.'
Second-place would secure Wisbech's highest Premier Division finish since the 1996-97 season which saw them gain promotion to the Southern League – while Dereham were still playing in the Anglian Combination League.
- The turnstiles at Aldiss Park open at 6pm tonight and Magpies officials are urging people to get there early as a big crowd is expected.
- For updates on tonight's game, follow Gavin Caney by clicking on the related link on the right-hand side of this page.