Fan army follows Trawler Boys
Michael Bailey Lowestoft Town will be cheered on by an army of 300 fans at Hillheads for their historic FA Vase semi-final second leg against Whitley Bay this afternoon (3pm).
Lowestoft Town will be cheered on by an army of 300 fans at Hillheads for their historic FA Vase semi-final second leg against Whitley Bay this afternoon (3pm).
The Blues will be hoping to make the most of their four-goal advantage, after thumping the northerners in Saturday's first leg at Crown Meadow.
And with Whitley Bay officials hoping more than 2,000 fans turn up to cheer the home side to an unlikely semi-final turn-around, Lowestoft will have three supporters' coaches and up to 100 fans making their own arrangements to complete the long trek north, in the hope of seeing their side secure its first ever Wembley final.
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One of those merry supporters will be Terry Lynes - a Lowestoft Town man through and through.
The 62-year-old first saw the Blues perform at Crown Meadow back in 1962 and will continue to support the club through thick and thin. He has also spent nearly a quarter of a century as a club official.
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Lynes is celebrating 20 years as club secretary this season and the club is seemingly marking it with a historic FA Vase run, which will be prolonged for one more occasion if Lowestoft can carry through their four goal advantage this afternoon.
As Town look to secure a Wembley date for May 11, Lynes knows what his reaction will be come 4.50pm today.
"When the final whistle goes I think there will be tears rolling down my cheeks, be it from despair or jubilation," he said.
"When we won the Suffolk Premier Cup, I was trying to phone my wife to tell her and I couldn't speak - that was a game played seven years ago and in front of a few hundred people. So I will probably be speechless as well."
There is not a lot about Lowestoft - if anything - that Lynes does not know and 46 years after first seeing the club in action, he is no doubt today's game is the biggest the club has ever faced - including FA Cup appearances against Watford and Swindon.
"It must be the biggest game in the club's history, especially with the media interest," he said.
"We've had big games in the FA Cup but that is just a matter of prestige. You know you're not going to win it and it's a bonus to play against a Football League side.
"But this is the prospect of a Wembley final, if we get the right result on Saturday, and we've never had that - or that pressure - before what is effectively a one-off match."
The financial rewards are also a bonus, with Lowestoft pocketing a minimum prize of £17,000 if they reach Wembley. Not bad for a club that was fighting for its survival only 14 months ago.
Vase fever has begun to grip the Suffolk town and should today's second leg follow the plans of joint managers Micky Chapman and Ady Gallagher, it is something that will take a far stronger hold after the weekend.
Lynes added: "I have never known so much interest in the club across the town. There are houses with team posters in the window. You get England flags when there is a World Cup or European Championships, but not Lowestoft.
"The interest has been far greater than anything I've seen in 40 years of supporting the club.
"I have never experienced anything like this and if both us and Needham Market get to Wembley, they'll probably close down Suffolk for the day."
With a 4-0 lead from the first leg secure, expectation is sky-high and although Lynes expects a tricky 90 minutes for the Trawler Boys, he is hopeful the players can finish the job they started at Crown Meadow and realise a dream voiced many Town supports since February - that this is their year.
"The players will go out there and do their best. They'll be up for it. It will be an intimidating atmosphere, as it's daunting going out against 2,000 fans and Whitley Bay may have found that last week," he said.
"But there is a steely determination which has been there, more than the league, and you just feel there is a different atmosphere when it comes to the Vase. We've been the underdogs in five of the six rounds and hopefully we'll do it."
Visit www.edp24.co.uk tomorrow for all the semi-final, second leg photos.