Let’s Do It For Dave

Preview by Andrew Warshaw

Eight months of hard work, 42 league games and a playoff semifinal all done and dusted. Now comes the final countdown in what is, quite simply, the biggest game in the club’s history.

Unexpected though many thought this might be back in August, Enfield Town go into their first ever Step 3 playoff final tomorrow knowing that every other team in the division, many of them with vastly bigger budgets and playing squads, will be looking on enviously as we make the ultimate push to get us up to National League South.

With our ticket allocation at Chatham slashed from 600 to 400 for apparent safety reasons, it hasn’t been the kindest of buildups off the pitch.

Given the 3,000 all-ticket sellout, there is a palpable feeling of injustice at how we have been treated, just as there was a couple of weeks ago with that phantom whistle in the away end that aided Chatham’s equaliser in our final league game of the regular season and ensured they, rather than us, got two home playoff fixtures.

All this has added extra piquancy to a game that was already  spicy enough but Gavin Macpherson and his backroom staff are focussing entirely on the job at hand.

With Chatham, who have been in second place for long periods of the season, finishing two points and one place above us, on paper we start as underdogs on their artificial surface.

But that, says Gavin, could work in our favour. “In playoffs it isn’t always about the side that finishes higher, it’s all about doing what you need to do on the day,” said Gavin.

Which Horsham so nearly did in their semifinal at Chatham, ultimately losing on penalties – and in the process preventing us gaining a home draw tomorrow.

“My message to players before kickoff will be just to be us,” said Gavin. “We’re underdogs, make no mistake, away from home on a plastic pitch. But this group will relish that tag.”

The possibility of Step 2 football is a mouth-watering prospect for everyone involved but Gavin is at pains not to take too much of the credit in his first season at the club.

“It’s not about me, I’m just trying to pilot this club. It will be for the supporters and those who have seen the club resurrected. As the founder chairman, it’s very sad that Dave Bryant is no longer here and there’s an element of wanting to do it for Dave, of course there is.”

“We look at Dave as a focal point because of his recent departure, and rightly so. Then there are a lot of others who have done a huge amount of work.”

Gavin is under no illusions that the heavyweight sides who have under-achieved will be back stronger next season.

“People may find this unrealistic but the first thing I said to my backroom staff in the close season when I met them for the first time as Enfield’s manager was ‘how are we going to win this league’ .

“When that didn’t happen, it was then about making sure we could get to the playoffs.  We understood the magnitude of the other teams and knew that if they got it right it would reduce our own chances.  Some havn’t which makes it all the more important to grab the opportunity now because you never know how things will pan out in the future.”

Gavin understandably won’t divulge team news but it’s no secret that having come off with a hamstring injury in our semifinal, Jake Cass will be a doubt though it was an encouraging sight to see him in training yesterday.

The air of quiet confidence Gavin and his team have exuded all season will be no different tomorrow.

“We’ve all worked very hard and now it’s down to making a few tweaks as we do with most opposition, and getting the preparation right. Then it’s down to the players to carry it out.

“I said all along  that this season would be the hardest ever in this league. If we come up short, next season will be even harder when you look at who’se coming down and who’se already there. But that doesn’t mean we won’t go again because we certainly will.”