Steve Tully is no stranger to play-off drama and on Tuesday night he hopes to write another chapter in his distinguished football career by guiding Truro City to the Southern League Premier Division play-off final.
The 35-year-old scored the decisive penalty in a dramatic shoot-out victory at Oxford United eight years ago. That success took Exeter City to Wembley for the first time in their history, but there was no fairytale ending as they lost 1-0 to Morecambe in the showpiece final.
It was a happier story 12 months later when Tully was again in the Exeter side that reached Wembley and this time overcame Cambridge United in the Conference Premier play-off final and seal the Devon club’s return to the Football League.
Tonight, Tully will embrace the drama of the play-offs once more with Truro hosting Hungerford Town in a one-off semi-final at Treyew Road for the right to meet either Poole Town or St Neots in the final on Monday, May 4.
“We have managed to get there and now we will see what happens,” he said. “We are well prepared and were lucky enough to have a dead rubber game on the last day of the season and rested 12 players, but they are all raring and ready to go.
“I said to the players about two or three weeks ago that when you get to this stage of the season, all the games are like Cup Finals. Because it is a one-off play-off game, it is like a Cup semi-final and [if Truro win] a Cup Final.
“It has to be settled on the night and we have a chance to get into the play-off final, so we have to make sure we do what we are good at.”
After an inconspicuous start to the season, Truro have been outstanding since the start of November and have lost only four league games in that time. One of those was last Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Histon, a dead rubber where Tully used the opportunity to rest 12 players ahead of tonight’s tie.
“We said at the start of the season that we wanted to start the season well, but it took us until October to get a settled squad and get the players to believe in what we wanted and since then we ave been on a great run,” he said.
“It’s credit to the players and they have enjoyed it as well. I think when you are playing with a smile on your face, you get the best out in players and we have managed to get that.”
Tully added: “I don’t think anyone expected this of us. When you look at where we finished last year, we finished 17th in the league, so it is a massive turnaround. It has changed the way people talk about Truro in the last six or seven months.
“We felt when we recruited players that they may not be the best footballers, but they were the right type and when we were up against it, they were the ones that dug in and it has turned out that they were the right type of people to bring in.
“It has been great for me and [assistant] Wayne [Carlisle] as well because we have learnt a lot about the way we coach. We are loving every minute of it.”
Victory for Truro tonight, coupled by a victory in the final itself, would certainly cap a superb year for Cornish football after the success of St Austell in this season’s FA Vase.
Over 2,000 fans turned out to watch their semi-final with Glossop North End and Tully is hoping the people of Cornwall turn out in force to cheer his side on as well.
“It has been a really good year for Cornish football. St Austell got the flag running, it was good for the publicity and everything and I think people stepped up and noticed.
“Once they got knocked out of the Vase, people started to take notice of what Truro were doing, we are lucky enough to get into the play-offs and hopefully we will get a good crowd. When you are doing well, people will turn out and watch you, so we are looking forward to a big game and hopefully people will come out and watch.”