AFC DARWEN boss Nick Lloyd is preparing for the biggest game in his club’s history when they take on Hanley Town in tomorrow’s North West Counties League play-off final.

The Salmoners host the showpiece at the WEC Anchor Ground (3pm) and Lloyd is fully aware of the significance of the game for a side who have never been higher than their current league since reforming in 2009.


Tomorrow’s final is a chance to change all that.

“I think you have to look at it as the biggest game in our history,” said Lloyd.

“It is a chance for us to get out of a division we have never been out of.”

Owing to fixture congestion Darwen have played 12 matches since Easter Monday, winning 11 and drawing one, a run which helped them lift the League Cup earlier this month and end the season in third, one place and one point above tomorrow’s opponents.

And Lloyd believes their incredible schedule has helped them close in on an historic promotion.

“There is no substitute for playing games,” said Lloyd.

“We have been playing so many recently that the lads are really match fit and that showed on Tuesday.

“We have always been concentrating on the next game.

“The next game has been our most important game for a few weeks now and it will be again on Saturday.

“All we can do is look to that and give it our best and hopefully we will be promoted out of this division.”

Lloyd used Tuesday night’s 2-1 comeback victory over Chadderton as an example of his side’s belief as they struck twice in the second half to book their place in the final.

“In the second half we were outstanding,” he added.

“The lads have huge confidence and we don’t give up at the moment and we are looking forward to tomorrow.

“Hanley have got a long way to come which will hopefully work in our favour but we will just be concentrating on ourselves.”

Hanley boss Dave Price admits the journey up from Staffordshire is not a welcome one, but still believes his side can upset Darwen.

“We had enough chances to finish in third place, but didn’t take them, so we will have to do it the hard way at Darwen.”

Darwen were cheered on by more than 350 people in the semi-final victory in midweek and Lloyd wants to recreate that support tomorrow.

He added: “The lads all came off the pitch on Tuesday and said the support was amazing.

“We had a lot of Rovers fans on watching us and they are playing at 12.15pm on Saturday whereas we are playing at 3pm so hopefully a few people can come and watch us after the Rovers game.

“The level of support we had on Tuesday just shows what we could achieve as a club.”

Lloyd added: “Hopefully Saturday will be the start of that.”