Final holds no fear for Brig says boss

Paul McKenna (above) will want to pip Sean Gregan to promotion
Paul McKenna (above) will want to pip Sean Gregan to promotion
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Bamber Bridge boss Neil Crowe says the pressure is on Darlington 1883 ahead of Saturday’s winner-takes-all play-off final.

Brig are one match away from a coveted place in the NPL Premier Division after beating Northwich Victoria 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Darlington are favourites to clinch promotion but Crowe says Brig are far from quaking in their boots and is relishing the underdog tag.

He said: “The pressure is on them. They are a massive club.

“They have a big budget and fan-base against little Bamber Bridge.

“People are expecting them to win. They are a big side – they haven’t finished second for nothing.

“They have Nathan Cartman, who won this season’s golden boot award but we have a great team too.

“It is a one-off game and we are confident we can win.

“The lads will give it 110%. We are not going to lie down and roll over. We will give everything to get promoted.”

Crowe believes last season’s NPL First Division North 
play-off final extra-time defeat to Ramsbottom United has made his men tougher.

And he hit back at the people who called last season’s play-off exploits lucky.

He said: “Some people at the beginning of the season said getting in the final last year was a bit of a fluke and that has spurred us on.

“To get in the play-off final two seasons in a row is no easy feat – it clearly was not a fluke.

“We are a stronger team than last year. Some of the players experienced the heartache last year and it has made them stronger. We have ambitions…one of them is to be promoted.

“It would be great for the club – we have been at this level for 10 years.”

The clash has extra spice as ex-PNE players and current Brig stars Jon Macken and Paul McKenna will take on former team-mate Sean Gregan, who is the Quakers’ assistant boss.

Crowe would have preferred a home tie but thinks the size of Darlington’s crowd could be to his side’s advantage.

He said: “There will be 2,000-plus Darlington fans.

“If they get the better of us early on, they can become their 12th man.

“But if we start well and Darlington don’t play well, the fans could turn on them 
and that could play into our hands.

“We have been allocated 300 tickets and I’m sure the Brig army will make some noise too.”

Seventeen year-old academy prodigy Regan Linney came off the bench to earn Brig’s place in the final.

And Crowe hailed the young striker’s ‘fairytale’ start to his Brig career.

He said:”Northwich was one of the toughest games we have had this season.

“Both sides were going fully at it over the 120 minutes.

“For Regan to come on with 10 minutes to go and score the winner is incredible.

“He is going to be a great player for the future that is why we have tied him down to a two-year deal.”