Proud Chris Rawlinson has every faith that his Spalding United side will seal promotion through the play-offs after clinching third place with an impressive 2-0 win over Lincoln United on Easter Monday.
Late strikes from top scorer Brad Wells (86) and Conor Higginson (pen 89) gave the Tulips all three points and booked a home play-off semi-final date with Stocksbridge Park Steels on Tuesday (7.45pm).
As a former assistant boss at Lincoln, Spalding supremo Rawlinson was understandably disappointed to end his former side’s hopes of joining him in the play-offs.
But he insisted there was no room for sentiment and expressed his pride at securing the Tulips’ best league finish in recent memory.
Considering that he and then boss Dave Frecklington inherited just four players when they took over in the summer (Frecklington later moved on to Gainsborough Trinity), finishing in third place represents an incredible debut season for Rawlinson.
“It was a great performance and a great day,” enthused the Tulips chief. “I’m so proud of what has been achieved by everyone here.
“It’s a shame that we’ve done it at Lincoln’s expense, but my focus is Spalding United now.
“When Dave and I came here, there was just four players. Then we only had 11 a couple of weeks before the season started.
“We played the waiting game and fair play to Dave, he assembled a superb squad. Sometimes when a manager leaves, it causes the team to break up or lose form.
“For me, that’s been great. We’ve had a very tough run-in, but the lads have done incredibly well.
“I now have every confidence in them to go on and finish the job in the play-offs, no matter who we are up against and where we play.”
Spalding have the small matter of their final regular game of the season this Saturday, with basement boys Northwich Victoria at the Sir Halley (3pm).
The banned Matt Varley misses that one, but Rawlinson already has one eye on the play-off semi-final against Stocksbridge on Tuesday.
The Tulips have lost both games against Steels this season, including a 2-0 reverse as recently as April 1.
But Rawlinson hopes that a big crowd at the Sir Halley, added to the lengthy 100-mile trek for away side, will give his side the edge.
“They’ve beaten us twice already,” added the Spalding boss. “But the home game was a bit of an anomaly, we had quite a few out.
“Home advantage will be huge on the night and it’s a massive occasion for the club. Nobody wants to travel 100 miles on a Tuesday.
“We’ll do all that we can to get a big gate and hopefully it’ll be a memorable day for everyone at the club.
“Who knows, we may have a home final too. But if we have to go to Witton, so be it.
“Football is a funny old game and rarely pans out how you expect.”
Should Spalding beat Stocksbridge, they will only have home advantage in the play-off final should second-placed Witton Albion lose to the fifth-placed side.
That will either be AFC Rushden and Diamonds, Basford United or Newcastle Town depending on results on the final day.
Tulips: Duggan, Walker, Jackson, Stainfield, Spafford (Miller 60), Varley (Higginson 68), Whitehead, Beeson, Lemon, Wells, Mettam (Lockie 80). Not used: Field, Downey.