Was it really 12 months ago?…
This time last year the Clarets were preparing to face Dartford in the first leg of the play-off semi final at Melbourne Stadium. Despite having amassed 8 more points than we managed this season, the Clarets finished fourth in the table, but much like this year there was one team involved who were incredibly unlucky not to win the title. Last year it was Ebbsfleet who, as we all know, did eventually make it up, this time around it’s Dartford themselves, who missed out on the title on goal difference.
The changes to the play-off system this year mean that, unlike last term, our semi-final match is just one leg, with much more riding on Sunday’s game at home to Hampton & Richmond. The winner of that match will go on to face the winner of Dartford vs Braintree in the final, with promotion to the promised land of the National League awaiting.
Hampton’s victory over Truro last night came after extra time, with the match being tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes. Substitute Bradley Hudson-Odoi came off the bench to net twice in extra time and give the home side a 3-1 win, seeing them through to the semi-finals where City await.
In the other preliminary play-off game, Braintree needed a penalty shootout to overcome Hemel Hempstead and will now travel over the QE Bridge to Princes Park on Sunday to try and book their place in the final.
Many City fans feel that the Clarets’ squad is perhaps less prepared for the play-offs than last year’s side, but a strong end to the season has seen Rod Stringer’s side win 8 of their last 9 games following defeat in the Essex Senior Cup final and we go into the game on good form.
In terms of head-to-head, Chelmsford have had little joy against Hampton & Richmond this season. The first game between the two sides back in September finished 1-1 at the Beveree Stadium, where a Chris Dickson goal looked to have given us the win, only for a last minute equaliser from Max Kretzschmar levelling the scores. The return fixture came during a difficult spell for City, who struggled for form after Christmas and came away on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.
The visitors, who hadn’t lost in 5 months / 20 games, were enjoying their best spell of the campaign and eased past the Clarets. Kretzschmar opened the scoring, before Anthony Church equalised, only for Charles to restore the away side’s advantage shortly after.
Both sides will fancy their chances going into the game and City especially will know that if they can get past Hampton & Richmond, they stand a good chance in the final. The Clarets are unbeaten again both of their potential play-off final opponents, having beaten Dartford twice and drawn both games against Braintree earlier in the season.