After watching his Ely City side book their place in the Cambridge Invitation Cup final at the expense of neighbouring Soham Town Rangers, Brady Stone hailed the perfect response of his players, writes Russell Claydon.
The Robins had threatened to self-destruct a promising campaign after being on the wrong end of two 6-0 hammerings in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division in less than six weeks.
But they got back on track with a 5-1 success at in-form Long Melford on Saturday, before a dogged display at higher-league Soham in their county cup semi-final on Tuesday saw them lead 2-0 before eventually being pegged back and ending up holding their nerve on a penalty shootout.
“It’s great to get to the final again, and to do it at Soham as well makes it even better, as they are our local rivals and they are a league above. I thought we deserved it overall,” said Stone, who had lambasted his players following the 6-0 home humbling to Coggeshall Town.
“We went on a bad run but every team goes on a bad run and it is how you come out of a bad run.
“We said to the lads we needed to stick together and do the right things and they did that Saturday and tonight. You can’t fault them.
“They are a great set of lads and it means so much to them.
“Last year we got to the final against Cambridge City and really let ourselves down (4-1 defeat) so we have got the chance to put that right now.
“We are the underdogs so we can go to the Abbey and enjoy the night.”
Ely will play the winner of the tie between Cambridge City and Cambridge Development Side.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s game, Stone said it was always the plan to make a quick start.
“We knew they were a good team so we had spoken about a bright start and getting on top early doors and we did. We took our chances.”
Stone takes his eighth-placed side to Wroxham in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division on Saturday (3pm) ready to make ‘five or six changes’ to make use of the squad at his disposal after a tiring run.
• Meanwhile, Soham boss Robbie Mason had been delighted with his side’s display in the 5-0 home win over Hertford Town on Saturday but said they had let down their fans on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately you can’t give any team a 2-0 lead, and after seven minutes we gave them two goals. It isn’t good enough.
“We did well second half pinning them back and had the majority of the play, but we should never have given them something to hold onto. It is very disappointing and I had made it clear it was a must-win game for the club.”
The Greens head to 18th-place Tilbury on Saturday (3pm) one place above them, but Mason revealed he still harbours rekindling their play-off hopes, despite being 18 points off the top six.
Having won three of their last four, he said: “It is a massive game for us. The next five weeks are crucial.
“I have said to the lads we must not lose this month. We go eighth or ninth with beating the teams around us, and then who knows going into the latter part when teams fatigue? It is not out of sight.”
Sam Mulready’s return to the club at the end of last week, which came too late for him to feature in the cup semi-final, is partly behind Mason’s optimism.
The striker scored nine goals in nine appearances at the end of last season which played a big part in preserving their Step 3 status.