FOOTBALL: ‘Every game is like a cup final now’

Nathan Whitehead
Nathan Whitehead
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Nathan Whitehead wants to treat Spalding United’s final push for a play-off place like a series of cup finals.

The 26-year-old midfielder is back from a two-match ban to face his former club Leek Town on Saturday – starting a run of four successive away games.

We want to get into the play-offs and win them for promotion. We don’t want the heartbreak of missing out again.

Nathan Whitehead

Whitehead returns to the Tulips’ midfield for the first time since their 2-1 victory at AFC Rushden & Diamonds just over a month ago.

He was unavailable for the next game against Sheffield and then served a suspension for collecting 10 yellow cards.

He said: “Every game from now is like a final to me.

“We need to secure a play-off spot and we haven’t been outside the top three places all season.

“Hopefully, we can keep plugging away and maintain that gap from third place to all our rivals for promotion.

“It feels a bit different to reaching the play-offs last season at Lincoln United as we came into that situation quite late.

“This year, it’s not about finishing in the top five. We want to get into the play-offs and win them for promotion.

“We don’t want the heartbreak of missing out again. I’ve experienced that feeling and so have Matt Varley, Conor Higginson and Jordan Lemon.

“We know what to expect in the play-offs and we need to use that experience.

“Honestly, I don’t feel it matters who we play because we know we can beat anyone in this league.

“I’ve really enjoyed being at Spalding this season because we’ve got a great set of lads. We’ve stuck together from day one in pre-season.

“You can tell on the pitch that we are fighting for each other and our spirit really showed by winning at AFC Rushden & Diamonds with 10 men from going 1-0 down.

“We have to keep going until we have secured a place in the play-offs.

“We need momentum as well and it’s going to be very interesting to see which teams finish in the top five.

“We know what we need to do and we’ve got to tick off a few more wins as quickly as we can.

“We don’t want to take a backward step because you have to be firing in the play-offs.”

Whitehead is available to face Leek after being out of action for more than a month.

He added: “It was a little bit disheartening but you can’t dwell too much on these things.

“Going back to Leek this weekend will have an extra bite, especially because they are in and around the play-off places as well.

“I played for Leek before I went to Lincoln United last season so I know quite a few of the lads in the team.

“Leek are a well-supported club at this level and it’s a nice ground.”

Jonny Lockie will join the Lincolnshire FA under-18 squad and Neal Spafford is suspended.

Leon Mettam (hamstring), Conor Higginson (heel), Kern Miller (unavailable) and Jason Field (illness) should be back in the squad after missing last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Belper Town.