Play-off semi-final is biggest game in Harrogate Town's history, says long-serving Lloyd Kerry
Lloyd Kerry joined the Wetherby Road outfit in the summer of 2014, around the same time that fellow midfielder Jack Emmett progressed into the first-team fold, and has experienced plenty of ups and downs.
The ex-Sheffield United trainee has chalked up more than 150 appearances in Town colours and was part of the team who beat Brackley 3-0 in the 2017/2018 National League North play-off final, a victory that sealed a historic promotion to English football’s fifth tier.
He has, however, also suffered with more than his fair share of injury set-backs during his time in North Yorkshire, but had become a mainstay of the Harrogate side that was challenging for the National League title before the 2019/20 regular season was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And, although rivals Barrow were handed first place and a spot in League Two for next season when final standings were decided using points-per-game ratio, Town still have the chance to secure a place in the Football League via the play-offs.
On Saturday, they entertain Boreham Wood in a semi-final showdown the magnitude of which cannot be understated.
“It’s massive, it’s definitely the biggest game we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Kerry said.
“There have been a lot of changes during my time with Harrogate. When I first came we were part-time, we had a grass pitch with a big slope on it. Now we’re a couple of matches away from the Football League.
“The situation is a bit strange with what’s been going on and us not having played for months, but it still has the same feel as our play-off final against Brackley in 2018.
“At the time, that was the biggest game in the club’s history, now this is obviously even bigger.”
Embracing the scale of the occasion and rising to it will be key to Town’s chances of success against the Wood, though Kerry insists that it is important that he and his team-mates don’t get too caught up in the significance of what is at stake.
“We know what’s at stake. If you can’t get up for a match like this, then what can you get up for?” he added.
“But, it’s important to play the game and not the occasion. We have been treating this like any other fixture. Our preparation this week has been just the same as what we have done before every other league match this season.
“We don’t want to get distracted by anything or put too much pressure on ourselves. We’re just focusing on going out and playing our own game and getting the result we need.”
Boreham Wood set up their semi-final meeting with Town by beating Halifax 2-1 on Friday evening, a game in which they trailed at half-time before eventually sparking into life.
Among the interested viewers who tuned in to watch that behind-closed-doors fixture was Kerry, who feels that Luke Garrard’s men showed just how good they can be when they’re on their game.
“I thought Halifax edged the first half but Boreham Wood showed what they’re capable of in the second,” the 32-year-old said.
“They’re big, strong, good at set-pieces – as you saw from their winning goal – and they use the ball well.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but I’m sure they’ll be just as worried about us as we are about them.
“Yes, they’ve got that 90 minutes of competitive action in their legs, however we’ll have to wait and see whether that turns out to be an advantage or a disadvantage.
"For me, the most important preparation is done in your head, anyway."