Play-off final as big as I have been involved in – Lowestoft Town boss
Lowestoft Town joint boss Micky Chapman admits this afternoon's play-off final at AFC Hornchurch is as big as any match he has been involved in during his 31 years with the club.
The Trawlerboys' trip to Wembley in 2008 for the FA Vase final may have had more glamour attached to it but today's trip to Bridge Avenue would arguably mean more to supporters with the prize of a place in the Conference set-up at stake.
Lowestoft missed out on their pre-season target of winning the title by just three points but Chapman is sure his players can grab this second chance to achieve promotion with both hands.
'It's up there with the biggest games that I've been involved in,' said Chapman. 'Everyone knows what the reward is and that's what we've been aiming for all season.
'You play football for occasions like these and to be honest it's the sort of game when you wish that you were still playing.
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'We missed out on the league title, which we were disappointed about, but we've got a second chance and we don't want that to slip away.'
The management team's job since the semi-final win over Wealdstone has been to try and keep everything as normal as possible in the team's preparations.
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The Blues have decided not to travel down the night before, preferring to stick to the away day routine, which has seen them lose just once on the road since February.
'Although it's on a Monday we are just approaching it like we would any other away league game on a Saturday,' said Chapman. 'We toyed with the idea of going down the night before but it's not a massive journey and the lads said they would prefer to go down on the day.
'Each lad has their own way of preparing and they've got to feel as comfortable as possible before it.
'We've got to play the game and not the occasion – we need to make sure we get our preparation right and we want to keep everything as normal as we can.'
Chapman has been reminding his squad of the emotional rollercoaster they endured during last year's play-off final at Tonbridge Angels and is well aware that if his players aren't up to scratch then Hornchurch have enough in their armoury to punish them. Lowestoft started 2012 with a 3-0 defeat at today's opponents – a result they want to put right.
'They are a very good side – we've beaten them this season and they have beaten us. We weren't happy at all with our performance at their place and I can assure everyone that we are more than up to this challenge.
'It's all in our hands and we can't ask for more than that. We are the underdogs because we're away from home but we will be taking loads of supporters with us and I know they will be making themselves heard.'
Chapman hinted that Andy Reynolds may have a chance of being involved despite a recent ankle injury while Matt Nolan and Robert Eagle will be assessed at training.
Sam Gaughran is expected to shrug off the slight niggle that forced his substitution against Wealdstone while Andrew Fisk is prepared to play through the pain barrier despite a slight knee problem.