I think we need to be playing at our best but we’ve got the players capable of getting promoted, says Whyteleafe boss John Fowler
WHYTELEAFE manager John Fowler says it will take all of his players’ to be on top of their game to win promotion via the play-offs this week.
Fowler left Croydon to guide Whyteleafe to the Southern Counties East Football League title last April, has sent the club to a fifth-placed finish in the Ryman League Division One South table with 81 points.
SUCCESSFUL: Whyteleafe boss John Fowler has won the Southern Counties East Football League title (above) and reached the Ryman League Division One South play-offs in his first two seasons in charge at Church Road.
It has, however, been an outstanding campaign for the top four as champions Burgess Hill Town only lost three league games – two of them to Whyteleafe – finishing the campaign on 109 points.
Folkestone Invicta will collect runners-up medals having finished on 98 points. Faversham Town finished third on 97 points, followed by Merstham on 93.
“It’s been an excellent season, I’ll be honest,” said Fowler.
“Our objectives when we first got promoted last year was pretty much to establish ourselves and a midtable finish would be a good return for the club but to hit the play-offs we’ve really exceeded all expectations and the players’ have done brilliantly all season.”
Whyteleafe followed in the footsteps of Maidstone United and Harlow Town in laying a 3G pitch at Church Road last summer.
But The Leafe lost seven home games on the surface, whilst losing only four games on grass on their travels in the league.
“The pitch has played well but I think we’ve struggled with it to be totally honest,” admitted Fowler.
“When teams come down to us the surface is so good they think ‘great, we can have a good game here.’
“They raise their game and it hasn’t had the points return what we thought it would have done. We’ve picked up more points away from home and I’m hoping next year it will have a bit of a reverse now we’ve settled on it for a year.”
Whyteleafe held Folkestone Invicta to two draws during the league campaign and travel down to Cheriton Road on Tuesday night for a play-off crunch game.
“As a club, I’ll be honest, we’re just happy to be in the play-offs,” admitted Fowler.
“Whatever happens out of it happens really.
“Folkestone are a good side. They’re the strongest side we’ve played all year so we know the size of the task but in one-off games who knows anything can happen.
“We’ll give it our best go.”
It has been an outstanding season for Burgess Hill Town, Folkestone Invicta, Faversham Town, Merstham and Whyteleafe.
Foweler agreed, saying: “When you think in previous years’ the third or fourth place would have won the title with those points so you can just see how much they’ve pushed each other all the way. For the top five it’s been a really good campaign.
Whyteleafe will be away in any Play-Off Final due to the fact that they finished at the foot of the play-off places.
If they pull off a win at Folkestone on Tuesday night, they will travel to Faversham Town or Merstham in Saturday’s winner-takes-all Final.
“If we do get through the game at Folkestone the next game between either opponent would be difficult,” said the Whyteleafe boss.
“The league don’t lie and the top four deserve to be where they are.
“They’re all good sides and capable of beating you quite easily if they apply themselves and the game goes right for them.”
When asked what it will take for Whyteleafe to clinch promotion this week, Fowler replied: “I think we need to be playing at our best. We’ve got the players capable of getting promoted, don’t get me wrong.
“I’ve got total belief in the players’ and there’s a lot of players in the squad who are more than capable of playing up a level.
“No problem with that but I think we all have to be at our best and we can’t afford to carry people.
“It will be a big ask for everyone to be on the top of their game but it’s not unachievable. If they do play to their potential and play at their best.
“Whatever happens out the play-offs we’ve had a brilliant season and it’s all about sustaining that and making sure that we have a similar season next year because that will be a tougher league, especially if we stay in the league because everyone knows what we’re all about.
“We’ll be a bit of a scalp because we’ve come in the top five and if we do go up it will be real exciting”
“Either way it’s going to be tough next year and it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to.”
Meanwhile, Folkestone Invicta will maintain normal ticket prices for this game:
Children aged 5-16: £3
Under 5s: Free – accompanied by an adult
The game will be settled on the night, so extra-time and penalties if needed.
Visit Whyteleafe’s website: www.theleafe.co.uk
Folkestone Invicta v Whyteleafe
Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Semi-Final
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Kick Off 7:45pm
At Cheriton Road, Folkestone, Kent CT19 5JU