Nicky Howell says Harleston Town will be ready to get win to take title off Sheringham should they slip up on final day
Harleston Town led the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North table for much of the campaign but they head into tomorrow’s final game at Wilderness Lane hoping for a favour to arrive from 50 miles away.
Leiston Reserves are the side they realistically need to claim victory at Sheringham in what would halt the new leaders’ 10-game winning run to allow them to overturn a two-point deficit. A draw combined with their win is not set to be enough with their goal difference currently six worse off.
Harleston had topped the table following Saturday’s 4-0 win at second bottom FC Parson Drove but were knocked off their perch as Sheringham won their game in hand on Tuesday, 2-0 at home to eighth-placed UEA.
“We’d have liked Sheringham to lose but it didn’t happen,” said manager Nicky Howell.
“They’ve been excellent for a while and they knew what they had to do by winning all their games to catch us up which they’ve gone and done, so fair play to them.”
But despite the psychological blow it has dealt, Howell will take his players into tomorrow’s visit of Needham Market Reserves (3pm) ready to get the three points they require to keep their title hopes alive.
“My lads know what they’ve got to do, we’ve just got to go out and win our last game and put ourselves in that position where if Sheringham do drop points or lose we’re in a position to snatch the league.
“Hopefully Leiston Reserves might be able to do us a little favour.”
Howell said he would be happy not to know what is going on over on the Norfolk coast while his side are in action but he accepts in today’s digital age he will be very much aware.
“For me personally I don’t like to know,” he said.
“I like to go out and play our game trying to get the win as we normally would but inevitably we will have someone up there giving us information so I’m sure it will get back to me.”
If it does not play out in their favour Town will end second – as they currently lead Downham Town behind them by 10 points – and look to take promotion via the play-offs.
Howell said: “It is almost a second chance isn’t it? If we don’t win the league we’ll get together during the week and focus all our efforts on the following Saturday where we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and go and win the play-offs.”
Matt Cook put the visitors ahead in the 28th minute at Parson Drove last Saturday before Ryan Crisp’s header doubled their advantage early in the second half.
Sam Last’s 62nd minute deflected cross made it three with the fourth arriving three minutes later. Nathan Stone flicked the ball over a defender before providing a fine finish for the fourth.
Howell reflected: “It was fairly comfortable, we maybe could have been a bit more clinical on the day to put a couple of goals on the board but it was job done over there and the lads were very professional getting the win and the clean sheet.”
Tomorrow sees them go up against a Needham Market Reserves side who will be looking to climb out of what is a liable relegation place – however unlikely that appears with the division carrying four less teams than its 20 maximum FA quota – in third from bottom.
“We played them at their place a little while ago (October 30) and we eventually edged it 3-2, we were 3-0 up at half-time and we had one of the best halves we’ve have all season,” said Howell.
“We played some really good stuff and then second half we went to pieces a little bit but fair play to them they came out after half-time and really gave us a game second half.
“They are a young squad; they’ve got talent, they’ve got energy and it’s certainly not a gimmie on Saturday. We’ve still got to go out and be at our best to make sure we win the game.”
He has the luxury of a fully fit squad to pick from once again.
Castlemen look to sew up play-off place
* Elsewhere in the division, Framlingham Town (5th) head into their final day game at Great Yarmouth Town tomorrow (3pm) knowing a victory will guarantee their play-off place.
If that doesn't arrive they only have to match Whittlesey Athletic's result at home to Debenham LC (12th) to seal their season extension and shot at promotion.
Framlingham were not in action on Saturday but remained in pole position for the play-offs courtesy of Whittlesey’s 2-1 ats Sheringham.