STRATFORD Town manager Carl Adams believes whichever team holds their nerve in the biggest game of the season will be celebrating promotion.
Adams describes Town’s Southern League Division One South & West play-off final against Larkhall Athletic on Monday (3pm) as an “all or nothing” contest.
Ninety minutes – or maybe more – at the DCS Stadium will decide whether third placed Stratford or fifth placed Larkhall will be promoted to the Premier Division for the first time in either club’s history.
Adams admits it will be a nerve-wracking affair in front of what will be the biggest crowd of the season, but he is confident Town have the know-how to cope.
They certainly proved their character in Tuesday’s semi-final when they recovered from conceding a tenth minute goal against visitors Taunton Town before sensational finishes from Rob Thompson-Brown and Kevin Charley sealed a 2-1 win at the DCS.
“To come back from going a goal behind was really pleasing.” said Adams.
“After conceding so early, playing in front of the biggest crowd of the season, it would have been easy to let the game slip away, but we didn’t and that shows the spirit we’ve got.
“Even at 1-0 down, I always felt confident we would win and the two goals we scored were fantastic finishes.
“We’ve got players with experience, players like Kevin Charley, Tyrone Fagan and Scott Hadland, and then we’ve got the younger players around them. There’s such a strong spine to the team.
“The final is going to be nerve-wracking. It’s all or nothing. It would mean the world to me, to the players and to the club to get into the Premier Division, especially considering this is only our second season in the Southern League.”
Not that Adams will underestimate Bath-based Larkhall, who stunned Evesham United to end the Robins’ ten-match winning run with a 3-0 win at the Jubilee Stadium on Tuesday.
“Monday’s game will be all about who handles it the best.” said Adams, who will have a full squad available.
“There’s quality in both teams, both teams are on good runs.
“Larkhall are a very fit team, in your face and very aggressive. We’re going to have to match them for sheer energy. We need to learn from what they did to Evesham.
“I had them watched and they were on fire from minute one and were 3-0 ahead at half time and then able to contain Evesham.”
Stratford’s semi-final was a much closer affair in front of a record crowd of 617 at the DCS.
Taunton’s Jamie Price put them ahead on ten minutes, as the full back fired home from Jamie Short’s flick.
However, Stratford equalised nine minutes later with a sizzling finish from Thompson-Brown, who smashed home on the volley after Fagan’s flick to the far past.
It was nip and tuck, with Charley and Hadland having efforts blocked and a Joe Halsall header flying wide, before Charley struck on 69 minutes with his 14th goal in 18 appearances.
It was a goal worthy of winning any match, too, as an Aaron Moses-Garvey back-heel set the striker towards goal and he rifled home a wonderful right-footed volley beyond keeper Lloyd Irish.
Inevitably, Taunton charged forward, but two brilliant saves from Andy Kemp – flipping over an Owen Irish header and then blocking a Lamar Powell effort – ensured it was to be Stratford’s night.
Will it be their day on Monday?