Dean and his Brackley players are relishing the play-off challenge
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Those were the words of Brackley Town’s interim boss Gareth Dean as the club prepares for their play-off showdown with Gloucester City at St James Park tonight (Wednesday, 7.45pm kick-off).
Both Brackley and Gloucester only confirmed their top-seven finishes in the Vanarama National League North on the final day of the season at the weekend.
And now they will battle it out in an eliminator encounter with the winners going on to an away semi-final at Chester, who finished third in the final table, on Sunday.
As Dean admitted, it has been a “roller coaster” of a season for Brackley with Kevin Wilkin departing and being replaced by Roger Johnson, who then left his role after a poor run of form despite the club still being in the play-off spots at the time.
Club captain Dean, who has been sidelined by a quad injury, was asked to take interim charge until the end of the campaign and ensured they secured a spot in the play-offs once again.
Brackley haven’t been able to take that final step into the National League before now and Dean believes his players should be relishing the challenge, which begins against a Gloucester side who sealed their play-off spot thanks to a dramatic late winner in Saturday’s 4-3 victory over Chorley.
“I think it’s been a bit of an emotional, roller coaster of a season for a lot of clubs at this level,” Dean said.
“You can look at the title race, the relegation battle and the play-off battle.
“For us, as a club, you look at the turmoil of changing management and new players coming in.
“It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy season for a lot of clubs including ourselves.
“So to have the opportunity to stabilise it and make sure we have the opportunity to be in the play-offs has been great.
“We have some young players in there who will be experiencing this for the first time and we have some older heads who have been in there and done it before.
“As a player, I have always loved these games particularly under the floodlights with a home crowd.
“It’s something you should relish and enjoy and these boys are champing at the bit now.
“There is lots of work to do but the main overriding feeling is the excitement of being able to play a play-off game and you’re in the wrong place if you don’t want to play in these games.”
The first National League North play-off eliminator was played last night with Kidderminster Harriers winning 1-0 at Alfreton Town. Kidderminster now go on to face King’s Lynn Town in the other semi-final at the weekend.
Should tonight’s game be level after 90 minutes, there will be 30 minutes of extra-time and then a penalty shoot-out if necessary.