When Steve Halford and Paul Phillips took charge of Ashton United in August, few could have envisioned just what was ahead.
The duo announced plans to make a charge for the top spots of the Evo-stik Premier Division but the claims were instantly waved away as few teams took note of just what the Robins were capable of.
Nine months later, the side are preparing for one of the biggest matches in their history – a play-off final showdown with AFC Fylde for a spot in the Conference North.
With the club’s budget and facilities in mind, what has been achieved from tomorrow’s underdogs has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Dale Johnson’s last-gasp strike took Tuesday’s play-off semi-final against FC United into extra-time before Jack Higgins struck in the 120th minute to send the away fans into ecstasy – but Halford hailed his warriors for their spirit over the season.
“I started to think it was over on Tuesday but we have a never say die attitude and so I knew we still could do something – it was an unbelievable script but I wish it wasn’t that close,” Halford told MM.
“When we took over, our idea was to win the league or get a top-five spot and people laughed at it.
“Without that belief and spirit there would be no point turning up and tomorrow is the same – it is a one-off game but whatever happens the lads have done us proud, there are no words that would do them justice.”
Halford is wary of the task ahead and is hoping AFC Fylde take his men lightly, as many teams before them have to their own demise.
“It will be a tight game and they are geared up to go up but we are very confident we can get a result – if my lads turn up I know we can,” he added.
“There will be pressure but you have to have pressure and nerves as it drives you on.
“More pressure will be on Fylde and I got told when they beat Worksop Town that they were jumping in the bar thinking they had gone up, I hope that was true as I want them to take us lightly.
“Hopefully we can go there and spoil the party.”
Hero Johnson suffered a broken leg in a challenge after scoring his equaliser in midweek – aside from that, the Hurst Cross outfit have no injury worries.
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