Winner Takes All

Playoff Preview by Andrew Warshaw

It is, quite simply, the biggest game we have ever played at the QEII and the anticipation is reaching fever pitch.

They say you deserve to be where you finish and after 42 league games, months of intensive hard work, behind-the-scenes attention to detail and all-important spirit and cameraderie, it all comes down to Wednesday night’s nailbiting play-off semifinal against familiar foes Hornchurch.

Play-off games, as we all know, are one-off affairs. They can be decided by a sublime piece of a skill or an outrageous stroke of luck. Euphoria can change to heartbreak in the blink of an eye – and vice-versa.

Just like Town, Hornchurch will be desperate to come away with victory, not least after losing to us twice this season. With a place in the final and the Holy Grail of Step 2 football so close, neither side will want their season to end just yet.

One thing’s for sure: the management team will have been meticulous in the build-up to the game and the atmosphere promises to be electric with Towners fans coming out in their hundreds to try and push us over the line and into a final against either Bishop’s Stortford or Cheshunt.

What we have achieved already is a tribute to the management staff and players, most of whom were not around the last time we reached the playoff semifinal five years ago. This time we want to go one better.

It’s highly possible that not one, not two but three ex-Town players could be facing us in a Hornchurch shirt with several ex-Towner legends likely to be in attendance.

Having become the first Step 3 side to win the FA Trophy, non-league football’s biggest prize, last season, Hornchurch know all about the big stage. But after Saturday’s Bognor result, coupled with Wingate’s surprise win at Hornchurch, there was a confident air of “bring it on” amongst our boys who are hungry to succeed and raring to go.

“Being rewarded with a home tie is something in all honesty I didn’t expect would happen,” Andy Leese (pictured) told the Our Local Non-League podcast. “But we worked hard for it and finishing third in the league is a reflection of what we’ve done all season so I’m absolutely delighted.”

With no league fixtures to fall back on, Andy and his staff will have left no stone unturned to get the players in the right frame of mind.

“The mindset is obviously slightly different because it’s bit like the last-chance saloon. But I’ve got a bunch of players who know the drill. A lot of them are used to playing in big games.”

Advanced ticket sales have gone through the roof though you can of course still purchase tickets on the night by cash or card at the turnstiles.

Stand transfer tickets, price £2 , will be available on the night but are likely to sell out before kick off. These can be purchased at the exit to the balcony in the main building. For crowd management and safety reasons there will be no access to the balcony except for those purchasing stand transfer tickets. We would appreciate your co-operation with these arrangements.

Turnstiles will open at 6 PM, bar and catering facilities will be open, and it is suggested you try to arrive 30 minutes before kick off if possible. This will help to ensure we can get everyone in the ground before kick off.

We do anticipate the main car park will be full before kick off . If you can walk or arrive by public transport that may be preferable. Car sharing is also very much encouraged.