Leiston boss Richard Wilkins expects Lowestoft Town to come out fighting in Suffolk Premier Cup final at Portman Road
Leiston manager Richard Wilkins does not expect Lowestoft Town to be suffering a relegation hangover when the two teams meet in the Suffolk Premier Cup final at Portman Road tonight (7pm kick-off).
Last season’s holders and 12-times winners were relegated from National League North at the weekend, on goal difference, and will be one of the Blues’ opponents in the Ryman Premier Division next season.
The Trawlerboys can be justified in feeling a little hard done by, having had to make several exhausting trips around the country in the last two seasons, to such venues as AFC Fylde and Stockport County in the North West, and North Ferriby in North Yorkshire.
On winning promotion in 2014, Lowestoft were switched from what was then Conference South to North which set them on an inevitable path that was always likely to end in relegation.
A sizeable chunk of the playing budget had to be siphoned off into making 42 away trips that most teams in their division have to do once or twice a season.
“Going in the Conference North was a big blow for them but it looked like, had they survived, depending on which teams were promoted and relegated, they were going to move to Conference South,” said Wilkins.
“It’s disappointing for them but this is a cup final and I am sure, come 7pm, they will be fully focused and we are expecting a hard game. I don’t think they will be licking their wounds – they will be up for it.”
While the Trawlerboys contemplate relegation, Leiston look forward to the game having finished eighth in the Ryman Premier, and been in contention for the play-offs for large chunks of the season.
The Blues also have an unwanted record to quash too, the coastal club having never won the cup, but been runners-up on three successive occasions between 2006 and 2008.
“It would be great to win it, especially for the chairman, Andy Crisp, vice chairman, Peter Mayhew and all the fans,” added Wilkins.
“We have been in the final three times but never won it. It’s nice to win any cup, the Premier Cup is special, but the players have to turn up and be fully focused.”
The final makes a welcome return to Portman Road tonight, Ipswich Town having been unable to stage the game for the last couple of seasons, due to a Barry Manilow concert being staged there and, last year, the Blues’ season being extended as a result of the play-offs..
Wilkins thinks playing on the Portman Road surface will provide a big challenge for his players.
“The pitch is quite sapping and physically demanding,” he said
“The players need to get plenty of fluid in them prior to the game to try and reduce fatigue on the night and then they have just got to go out, relax, and enjoy it.
“It’s a much better occasion playing the game at Portman Road, and that’s no disrespect to any other venue, and it gives the competition the prestige it deserves.”
Lowestoft are the holders and defeated Leiston in last season’s semi-final and Wilkins added: “You just hope the game is not decided on a bad decision or an individual error.
“It’s a great cup to win and a great venue at which to win it.”