MANAGER Dave Diaper will tell his Sholing players not to be frightened of losing when he sends them into battle in the FA Vase semi-final second leg at Eastbourne United tomorrow.
The Boatmen were held 2-2 at home last Saturday and a conversation with veteran midfielder Taffy Richardson has strengthened Diaper’s belief that fear of failure can cost you dear.
Richardson famously captained Wimborne Town to FA Vase glory at Wembley in 1992, but was part of the Poole Town side knocked out by Whitley Bay in the 2010/11 semi-final.
The Dolphins lost the home leg 2-1 against the eventual champions and crashed 3-1 in the return leg on North Tyneside.
“Speaking to Taffy, he said they went up to Whitley Bay and, to a man, they weren’t mentally strong,” said Diaper.
“He said he didn’t recognise his players in the dressing room because they were so nervous. You can sort of get caught in the headlights and that fear of losing can cost you the game.
“I’ll be telling our lads to go out and play like they normally do.
“If we’re beaten by the better team, so be it. I’d rather we came away having given everything rather than knowing we still had 30 or 40 per cent to give.
“We’ll go there as underdogs because Eastbourne will think they’ve done the hardest bit.
“They’ve made a thing about how we won’t fancy playing at their ground, but 99 per cent of us – myself included – have played a Millbrook Rec! We’ve been brought up on pitches like that and, whatever theirs is like, it won’t faze us.
“They might say it will be difficult for us to get the ball down and play, but if you want it badly enough, you go and get it.
“If you spend more time worrying about getting knocked out than making plans to get there, you’ve got problems.
“We’ve got to forget about the occasion and treat it as a normal game.
“Their players will be nervous as well because the pressure’s on them playing at home.”
Sholing didn’t have the best of build-ups, beaten 2-0 by Alresford Town in Tuesday’s Sydenhams League Cup semi-final.
But Diaper insisted: “We’re still quite buoyant. “It wasn’t ideal playing one semi-final between two others and, much as we tried to get it out of our minds, thoughts of the Vase were always there.
“I made six changes, but we knew we would have to be at our strongest to compete with Alresford and, fair play to them, they totally deserved the win.
“Alresford play a high-tempo game on the deck with good control and movement, but Eastbourne have different qualities.
“They’re quite a big team and they’re more about power. “We need to make sure we don’t give away too many free kicks and let them on to us like that.”
Fit-again winger Nick Watts is added to last week’s squad. Sholing’s only slight injury doubt is Alex Sawyer (back).