Tonight is the night we will learn our fate. The 1-1 draw in the first leg of our League One play-off semi-final with Peterborough means tonight’s second game is winner takes all. It is finely poised but there were plenty of positives to take from the game at London Road on Saturday as we came from behind to level the tie and on another day might have won it as we created a raft of chances and Posh goalkeeper Robert Olejnik was in inspired form.
Over 1,700 of our fans made the trip and it felt like a cup tie. It was a great advert for League One. Despite finishing the first leg the stronger team, our manager Russell Slade wasn’t letting anyone get carried away as he gathered the players in a huddle afterwards to tell the lads they must stay focused with so much work still to be done.
After the game the players returned to the hotel that they had stayed in to make use of the spa facilities to help with their recovery before the coach set off back down the M11 to London. With so little time between the two legs, there is no room for complacency.
It’s been an exhausting week and we’ve all been so focused in preparing everything for tonight’s game that it seems unimaginable that tomorrow we will wake up with either the season finished or a trip to Wembley to prepare for. There have been plenty of late nights and the light has been burning brightly in the infamous “bunker” as the gaffer and his coaching staff prepare for tonight’s game in minute detail, watching DVDs and nudging magnets around the tactics board as the poster of Winston Churchill looks on.
“Let Us Go Forward Together” is the message on the poster and everyone else has been putting the hours in too. It was all hands on deck with the ticket sales last week as we opened from the Bank Holiday Monday to begin selling the semi-final tickets. More or less all the staff at some point played a part in the selling process with some fans even queuing as early as 5am to get their hands on them.
The media interest in us has gone through the roof in the last week. The majority of the time we have no attendees at our Thursday press day other than myself but this week we had Sky Sports, BBC TV and radio, plus a handful of written press. Space is tight in the training ground so we normally do the interviews outside on the picnic benches which is ideal, however, typically last week it was chucking it down.
The written press sat at a table alongside the players eating lunch, Sky had to turn an 8ft by 6ft interns’ changing room/umpires’ room for the cricket season into a studio and the BBC set up in the groundsman’s shed in between his tractor and lawnmowers. Everyone was pleased with the outcome aside from the youth team, who had to turn their music off in the gym.
It’s all eyes on tonight now for what should be a special atmosphere in front of a capacity crowd. The Sky cameras will be in town again if you want to watch and I’m getting nervous now just writing about it. Fingers crossed we can do it and give this column a couple more weeks to run.