Horncastle Town are preparing for one of the biggest games in their recent history on Wednesday, March 25, and admit: “We have to win!”
Town’s dreams of securing the Lincolnshire League title suffered a cruel set back when they lost 4-3 in an incident packed clash at Wyberton on Saturday.
Town still lead the title race by a point from arch rivals Hykeham Town who have two games in hand.
The two sides clash at The Wong on Wednesday (ko: 7.45pm) in a clash which could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title.
Town spokesman Dale Johnson said: “It’s a must win game for us - as simple as.
“If Hykeham, win, they’ll be two points ahead of us with a couple of games in hand.
“We’ve still go to go to their place so the lads know what is at stake.
“It’s going to be tough. Hykeham have only conceded six goals in the league this season. They are big, physical and direct side but we know what to expect.
“There should be a big crowd, a cracking atmosphere and hopefully we’ll get the result.”
Town will be hoping to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s explosive events at Wyberton as they lost for the first time in 12 games.
Scott Lowman and Tony Edwards were both sent off as Town played the whole of the second half with nine-men.
Lowman was the first to go for a crunching tackle five minutes before the break.
Then Edwards - such a key figure in Town’s plans - saw red within seconds of the re-start for an alleged elbow on an opposing player.
Johnson added: “We can’t really have any complaints about either decision.
“Scott’s was a bad tackle. He was off the ground. Some days he might have got away with a booking, but not Saturday.
“The crazy thing is we sat the lads down at half time and told them how important it was to keep their discipline and not do anything silly.
“But what happens?
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“Within seconds of the re-start, Tony catches one of their lads and gets sent off.
“Most of the crowd were still in the bar.
“There was no need for Tony to even make a challenge because the ball was going out of play.
“He (Edwards) rolled about on the ground, trying to make out he’d been butted but the ref’ saw exactly what happened. We can’t complain.”
It was 2-2 when Edwards saw red and Wyberton - who had dreams of the title themselves until a couple of weeks ago - took full advantage.
They swept into a 4-2 lead before one of their players was sent off for a challenge on Town skipper Chris Johnson.
Amid the various cards, Town’s nine men dug deep and produced a grandstand finish which almost secured a share of the points.
Sub Michael Harness made it 4-3 and then the outstanding Mickey Stones had strong appeals for a penalty turned down in the last minute when he was fouled with only the ‘keeper to beat.
With seconds remaining, midfielder Richard Jackson crashed a drive just over the bar and then Carl Smith had an effort kicked off the line right on the final whistle.
Johnson added; “It was an incredible finish and to be fair, we deserved something.
“You can’t fault the lads for the commitment they showed with nine men, especially after going 4-2 down.
“There were some great performances. ‘Stoner’ (Stones) was brilliant. He put in a real shift for the team and it was a stonewall penalty.
“He only had the ‘keeper to beat, was just about to pull the trigger and had his legs taken. Amazingly, the ref’ accused him of diving. Ridiculous.
“Then, we have the other two efforts in stoppage time. To make it worse, we found out Hykeham had won 1-0 with the last kick of their game. It was a bad day at the office.”
Apart from Harness, Town’s other goals came from Stones and an Ollie Johnson penalty.