It’s crunch time for Lowestoft Town and their National League North survival mission
- Credit: Michael Sedgwick/Focus Images
Deputy head of sport MARK ARMSTRONG sets the scene ahead of one of the biggest days in the Blues' history.
During Lowestoft Town's ascent through the non-league pyramid the club got rather used to play-off finals.
In fact, so much so, they played four of them before finally gaining the promotion to the Conference set-up they craved one glorious day in May two years ago.
It was one hell of a journey having experienced three play-off final heartaches but in the end it made it all the more sweeter when they hammered AFC Hornchurch 3-0 at the fourth time of asking.
Today will be a different occasion – this isn't a play-off final – but the stakes are just as high.
Come around 4.50pm this afternoon one of Lowestoft or Brackley will be relegated from the National League North. Four seasons of utter toil in getting to this level could be undone within 90 minutes against Gloucester City for the Blues. There won't be any fingernails left on the east this evening.
Every Lowestoft fan will have studied the table studiously over the past few weeks as it became clear the club's fight for survival was going down to the wire.
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But in case you needed reminding it boils down to this: If Lowestoft don't at least match Brackley's result at home to Tamworth this afternoon, they will be relegated.
But before anyone starts fretting, Lowestoft are at least in pole position to secure that final 'safe' spot. They sit two points above Brackley, who do unfortunately have a superior goal difference meaning even a draw for Lowestoft might not be enough should their relegation rivals secure all three points.
Their respective opponents have little to play for but pride.
Gloucester have long since secure safety and sit comfortably in mid-table whilst Tamworth's fight for a play-off spot came to an end last week.
The hope from a Lowestoft point of view is that Gloucester won't relish the prospect of a 240-mile journey to Crown Meadow for their final game. The odds are in Lowestoft's favour but their performance must improve dramatically from their 3-0 defeat to North Ferriby United on Tuesday. Manager Ady Gallagher at least remains upbeat.
He admitted: 'If someone had told me in October that we had to win one game at home on the last day to stay up then I would have taken it.
'We've gone through a very tough season. It's been incredible what we've had to go through this year. It's important for me personally and for the group to actually come through that. However fine the margins are, it is just important to know that, however much we have suffered, it will be worth something at the end of the day. That's why it's so important for us to do what we need to do.'
Lowestoft's threadbare squad could be boosted by the returns of loan pair Ben Killip and Harry Kyprianou this afternoon. Killip has overcome concussion sustained whilst training with parent club Norwich City last week whilst Kyprianou came through an under-21 match for Southend unscathed following a hamstring problem.
Robert Eagle could also be named in the squad after being absent in recent weeks due to work commitments but the name on the team-sheet that every Blues fan wants to see is that of Jake Reed.
The club's top goalscorer has been sidelined for over a month due to an ankle injury but came on for the last half-hour against Ferriby and could be available to start. The Blues look a different side with the former Dagenham & Redbridge striker at the sharp end and his return may have just come at the right time.
Reed has often proved the man for the big occasion and they don't come any bigger than this for the Trawlerboys. Their National League status is at stake and they must deliver.