‘Best squad in the league’ – Jordan Ive confident Bracknell Town can upset play-off odds

Bracknell Town celebrate. Photo: John Leakey.
Bracknell Town celebrate. Photo: John Leakey.

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They lost twice to them in the league (1-5 and 2-3) and have suffered more away defeats (13) this season than any other team in Southern League Premier South. But manager Jordan Ive remains confident Bracknell Town can beat hosts AFC Totton in their play-off semi-final on Wednesday evening.

“They’re a really good side, but then so are we. On our day, we have the best squad in the league,” he said.

“Although we lost to them last month, it was one of our best performances in our last six games. We know what to expect from them, and the momentum is with us. I will back this squad every single day of the week—they’re incredible. They have done so much for me and the club.

“Yes, our away form over the season could have been better, but since I came here just before Christmas, it has picked up, and we’ve had some good results away from home.

“In our last away game, we beat Chesham, the league champions, and that is a huge confidence booster going into the game on Wednesday.”

In front of around 900 spectators, the Robins were made to work hard by Hayes & Yeading, who came to Sandhurst needing to win to avoid relegation.

Bracknell Town fans. Photo: John Leakey.
Bracknell Town fans. Photo: John Leakey.

They were missing several players who, for various reasons, were unable—or allegedly refused—to travel down to fellow strugglers Plymouth Parkway last Wednesday. This left them with just two substitutes and a 3-1 defeat, which severely damaged their hopes of staying up.

Hayes kept Bracknell at bay until the 55th minute when Ralph Vigrass broke the deadlock and fired home. Haydon Vaughan doubled the advantage, and the Robins looked to be coasting. But the visitors refused to put out the white flag and goals from Mo Bettamer and Tommy Wood in the space of four minutes brought them level with just under 10 minutes left.

However, two minutes later, Jordan Esprit restored Town’s lead, only for Bettamer to equalise in stoppage time. His penalty was parried by keeper Joe Besant, but the United striker followed up to hit home the

So Ive’s men finished a point ahead of Merthyr, who had been in the top six for much of the season but were recently knocked back by two defeats at the hands of Bracknell.

By reaching the play-offs, the club has achieved what has been Ive’s target ever since he was appointed manager just before Christmas, when they sat 10th in the table.

“When I took on the role, it was always going to be a tough ask, but I and our coaching team installed belief into the team that we could make the play-offs,” revealed the young manager.

“That was backed up by some huge results. We were sure where we were going, and our recent form has brought us to where we are today. As I said earlier, the momentum is with us and that will hopefully continue at Totton.”

Young Bracknell Town fans at Bottom Meadow. Photo: John Leakey.
Young Bracknell Town fans at Bottom Meadow. Photo: John Leakey.

If Bracknell beat Totton, who finished runners-up in the league, they will be away to Salisbury or Gosport Borough in the final next Monday.

Town defeated both at home this year, but lost to them away earlier in the season.

Ive faces some difficult selections problems, but keeper Michael Eacott, who wasn’t available last Saturday, and pacy winger Gary Abisogun look certain to return, while Joe Grant could make the starting line-up after being on the bench against Hayes.

Adam Mekki came off after aggravating an injury and faces a late fitness test, but George Knight, Max Herbert and Elliott Legg all remain sidelined.

For chairman Kayne Steinborn-Busse, this was his last home game before he steps down from his role and hands over control of the club. His successor, who was at Saturday’s match, will be officially announced next week.

Kayne has sent this message to supporters: “I hope to see you all on Wednesday. Let’s get behind Jordan and the team and help to keep the promotion push alive. Together we can achieve greatness.”

In addition to Hayes & Yeading, Beaconsfield, Harrow Borough, and Didcot Town were relegated – four clubs that were easily reachable for Bracknell fans.

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