FC Halifax Town manager Billy Heath believes that the experience of his side in the play-offs will give them a real advantage in the semi-final legs.
As we know, Salford City were confirmed as Town’s opponents in the Vanarama National League North play-off semi-finals, which provided a mouth-watering prospect to those who remember the fixtures earlier in the season.
An emphatic 4-2 victory at the MBi Shay Stadium was the most recent fixture between the two, although the play-offs are likely to demonstrate a different side to the opposition starting at Moor Lane.
For Heath, this is something that will be at the forefront of his mind when the play-offs kick off on Wednesday. And despite the home leg being the final game, Heath does not see this as an advantage.
“It will be a different challenge because it’s the play-offs. Salford is a tough place to go as we know, they’ve got a good home record so they are obviously a strong team. It would have been a tough game no matter who we faced in the play-offs, it is going to be exciting and we will have to be strong.
“You have to play them both home and away so to play them at home second is not much of an advantage really. We have got to make sure we play well over both legs, it’s nice that the second le is at home but we must perform both home and away.
“Our away record has been really good all season so both ties will be difficult. They bring different obstacles but we want the players to embrace it and show good character and mental strength”.
When it comes to the play-offs, experience can be key to handling the high-pressure games that teams are likely to face.
It will come as no surprise to Town fans that the plethora of ex North Ferriby players and coaches alike will be well accustomed to the competition. From Heath’s point of view, this will give the Shaymen a precious advantage.
“Through my experiences, you have just got to be as calm as you can possibly be and make sure you have covered everything from a manager’s point of view. Once again you must tell the players that it’s about the mental strength.
“The games are tough because you usually get some good games in the semi-finals. We have a squad that have been there and done it before, a lot of players have been involved in the play-offs so we are vastly experienced. This will stand us in good stead”.
However, at this stage of the season, the players are not as fresh as they once were earlier in the campaign. Heath’s team selection against Chorley earlier in the week was noticeably different from usual, although Heath says this was ideal in preparation for Salford.
“It was a good opportunity to give some people a game who haven’t had a massive amount of game time of late. We wanted to see how the players who have had injuries would react to a good amount of play.
“It was ideal in our preparations for the game on Wednesday against Salford so that we have a fresh batch to be part of the sixteen in midweek.
“If you look at Josh Wilde and Kevin Roberts, they have played a lot if not every game this season so I was the perfect time to give them a break. Kevin had struggled with an injury during the week so he needed resting”.