Lowestoft so close to realising their dream
Lowestoft Town are just 90 minutes away from realising their dream of Conference football next season and they are determined to seize their opportunity with both hands.
The Trawlerboys travel to Tonbridge Angels this afternoon (kick-off 3pm) on the verge of their third consecutive promotion and first team coach Craig Fleming is certain his charges can handle the pressure.
'We believe we are as good as anyone at this level so there really is nothing to be afraid of for the lads,' said the former Norwich City defender, who helped mastermind the Blues' 2-1 win against Bury Town in the Ryman League Premier semi-final on Tuesday. 'The stakes are obviously very high for both sides but it will be the side that copes with the pressure who will emerge as winners.
'We stressed to the lads the importance of staying relaxed against Bury and they took that on board. If they do the same on Saturday then I know we've got enough quality to win.'
The Blues, who have prided themselves on being run as professionally as possible despite operating at non league level, travelled down to Tonbridge yesterday evening to ensure there were no aching limbs, which would inevitably occur if they drove down on the day.
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Fleming has been impressed by today's hosts on the two previous occasions they met this season, both of which ended in draws, but hopes the Blues do not give themselves a mountain to climb as they did when they went to Longmead in January.
Lowestoft were 3-0 down after 34 minutes and had to call upon all their resilience to mount a fightback, which eventually rescued a point thanks to goals from Greg Crane, Dale Cockrill and Michael Frew.
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'Tonbridge are a good side as demonstrated by their second-placed finish but no-one holds any fears for us in this division,' added Fleming.
'I genuinely believe that if we hadn't suffered the injuries that we've had then we would have been able to challenge Sutton United a lot more for the title.
'Tonbridge have seen us at our worst when we went 3-0 down at their place but they've also seen what sort of spirit that we've got in our side in the way we came back and rescued what turned out to be a crucial point.'
Curtis Haynes-Brown faces a race against time to prove his fitness after the former Sudbury man limped off with a hamstring strain against Bury in midweek.
Fleming hopes Haynes-Brown will be able to shrug off the injury to take his place alongside Sam Gaughran at the heart of the back four although in Greg Grane they have a more than adequate replacement.
Long-term casualties Michael Frew (broken ankle) and Jamie Forshaw (torn hamstring) won't play any part but Adrian Forbes is confident his knees are up to playing two games in quick succession after playing a starring role in the play-off semi-final. The 32-year-old is expected to take his place up front alongside Matt Nolan.
The Blues will be roared on by at least three coach loads of supporters making their way to Kent for the match with many more expected to make their own way there.
A crowd in excess of 2,000 is anticipated and Fleming revealed just how much the support from the Blues' faithful means to the management team and the players.
'We don't take their support lightly and we're desperate to make sure the long journey is worth it,' he added.
'We've run into our best form at exactly the right time...one more big performance and we will have realised what we set out to achieve at the start of the season.'