Alex Pike has told his Gosport Borough troops: Our season counts for nothing except these 90 minutes.
After last season’s last-gasp win at Poole Town, the Borough boss leads his team into a second successive play-off final today at Hemel Hempstead (3pm).
With a place in the Blue Square Bet South up for grabs – which would be Gosport’s highest level in their history – Pike knows it is the biggest game of his career.
And having seen the highs and lows throughout the Southern League premier division season, Pike has told his men to forget everything that has gone before and simply focus on today’s pivotal 90 minutes.
He said: ‘It’s been a strange season but everything is still up for grabs for us and we could be playing in the Blue Square Bet South next season.
‘I think we would have taken that at the start of the season!
‘The first 11 games of the season were a disaster. We were second from bottom but then all of a sudden, something just clicked.
‘If I knew what it was, I would bottle it and sell it. We then went 23 games unbeaten and got ourselves right back into the hunt.
‘Then once we had got there, we then lost four out of five of our next games.
‘But none of that really matters as long as we win this game.’
Confidence has been brittle at times for Gosport this season but Pike has seen positive signs that the win over St Neots on the final day of the regular season, which secured their play-off place, acted as the catalyst that could yet end in a piece of club history.
Pike said: ‘Since the St Neots game, I’ve seen the belief come flooding back.
‘Even going behind against Stourbridge in the semi-final, I still felt we had enough to get back into the game and go on to win.
‘The players were delighted with that result but it’s my job as a manager to keep their feet firmly on the ground for this game.
‘I’m certainly not doing any celebrating until we’ve won this one.’
Brett Poate’s hamstring strain looks unlikely to heal in time for him to play any part at Hemel but Pike has left the door open for him.
He said: ‘We patched Brett Poate up on Tuesday but he lasted only 41 minutes before his hamstring went again.
‘He was talking about seeing someone to try to get himself fit but it looks a long shot.
‘I wouldn’t put it past him because he’s a determined guy and he is desperate to play.’
One man who should get the nod again is Ryan Scott, who made a belated debut for the club in the semi-final victory at Stourbridge – even though he signed back in June.
Pike said: ‘We signed Ryan Scott at the start of the season after he went through to the play-offs with Totton last season.
‘He signed for me but then never kicked a ball because he got a job as a retained firefighter.
‘I rang him up desperate on Monday night, he turned out for me and was absolutely superb.
‘He looked like he had been playing with us all season.
‘I heard a few people asking “what is he doing bringing someone in for this game?” and then afterwards they were calling it a masterstroke.
‘Hopefully it will be again.’