As a player you want to play in the biggest games you can and being involved in a play-off match is massive, says Dartford goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim
DARTFORD goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim says he is keen to get the club back in the top flight of non-league football following a two-year absence.
Tony Burman’s side finished their 46-match Vanarama National League South campaign in third-place, having collected 84 points.
Maidenhead United sealed automatic promotion in to the Vanarama National League for the first time in their history after banking 98 points, a couple of points clear of Ebbsfleet United, who have finished league runners-up for the second successive season.
Dartford travel to Chelmsford City tonight (19:45) for the first leg of their play-off Semi-Final, with the second leg taking place at Princes Park on Sunday afternoon (15:00).
The Essex side finished their campaign in fourth-place, a couple of points behind Dartford.
“I think for the club it’s a great achievement to finish third,” said Ibrahim, 26.
“The gaffer set us targets and we’ve managed to hit them over the course of the season, which is fantastic.
“Credit to both Maidenhead and Ebbsfleet, who have had excellent seasons themselves, but as a club we are proud of what we have achieved so far this season.”
Play-off games are tight, nervy occasions and the Gibraltar international keeper is relishing the challenges ahead.
“As a player you want to play in the biggest games you can and being involved in a play-off match is massive,” said Ibrahim.
“Yes, you get nervous because you know what’s on the line but overall it’s a feeling of excitement getting to know you’re going to play in front of two very big crowds.
“Chelmsford are a very good side and I believe we are two evenly matched sides and that has shown in the games we have already played each other and also where we have finished in the league table so close together.
“If we want to get anything from the tie we need to be on the top of our game for sure.”
Ibrahim revealed that the mood in the camp is positive going into the games.
“Training has been good all season, not only leading up to the play-offs. We have an excellent team spirit around the dressing room and this makes coming in to train very enjoyable.”
Ebbsfleet United travel to Hampton & Richmond Borough tonight for their two-legged tie.
Alan Dowson’s side finished their campaign in seventh-place in the table with 69 points on the board but were invited to join the play-off party because Poole Town and Hungerford Town did not meet the ground grading criteria and were prevented having a chance of getting a chance of promotion.
“I wouldn’t write Hampton off at all,” warned Ibrahim.
“When we played them at the start of the season they were outstanding. They have some very good players and they have nothing to lose. It will be a very good game between two good teams and it will go down to the wire.”
Ebbsfleet United threw away promotion with seconds to spare as Maidstone United grabbed promotion by forcing a late-gasp equaliser and winning on penalties at Stonebridge Road.
Ibrahim added: “I personally believe Dartford are a National League club. People might think I’m a little bias but the ground, the fans and the squad, I believe could cope in the league above and to be part of the squad who does that would be amazing.
“However, I’m not getting carried away. We have to be on our toes tonight and Sunday.”
Ebbsfleet United boss Daryl McMahon, meanwhile, says his side are ready for their two-legged clash against Hampton & Richmond Borough.
“If we’d got the results we were looking for on Saturday, then fantastic,” McMahon told www.ebbsfleetunited.co.uk.
“But it’s the play-offs and I know the fans and the players will be ready, waiting and looking forward to the challenge.
“We’ve regrouped since the weekend and we’re ready to embrace what’s ahead now.
“Each and every one of our fans has turned up home and away and thrown their weight behind these players. When we travel we often outnumber the home support and if we can get our supporters out singing home fans, it means everything to the players.”
Visit Dartford’s website: www.dartfordfc.co.uk
Visit Ebbsfleet United’s website: www.ebbsfleetunited.co.uk