GATESHEAD travel to Grimsby Town for the first leg of their Conference play-off semi-final tonight, and manager Gary Mills has warned his players not to let the prospect of a Wembley appearance affect their focus.
The Heed are two games away from reaching the Skrill Premier play-off final and go into tonight’s first leg on the back of a 12-game unbeaten run which saw Mills’ side finish third in the table.
Mills has already tasted play-off success when he guided York City back to the Football League in 2012 and knows the dangers of his players getting caught up in the hype surrounding a potential trip to Wembley.
Gateshead will look to maintain their unbeaten run going into Sunday’s second leg at the International Stadium, but Mills has called for his players to do a professional job over both legs.
“We've proved if we play how we can play and do our jobs, we can win football matches,” said Mills, who will have striker Jack Lester back from a groin problem.
“With Wembley around the corner, as soon as you mention that, it becomes a little more special.
“Everybody's desperate to get there, but you can't be too desperate because you'll end up falling flat on your face.
“We've got to go and do the job professionally and come back here on Sunday to play in front of a big crowd.
“I've got an honest bunch of lads who have been fantastic for me. They have listened and worked hard, and we deserve to be in the play-offs.
“It's an incredible achievement, not just by the players but by the whole football club. We have got into the play-offs and we want to take it further and get to Wembley.
“We have enjoyed the league campaign and we now look forward to the play-offs, but it's no point getting there if you don't get to Wembley.
“The 46 game league campaign has now gone, and we've earned the chance to get Gateshead back into the Football League after 54 years.
“When I got the job at Gateshead my aim was to take the club back into the League.
“York City had been eight years out of it when I got them promoted, but that's no time compared to more than five decades.
“Financially, to get back into the Football League for Gateshead would be fantastic, with all the finances that come with promotion.”
On-loan midfielder JJ O’Donnell has also recovered from a gashed shin, but Grimsby will be without striker Connor Jennings for both legs.
Grimsby boss Paul Hurst said: “They've been on a fantastic run and full credit to Gary Mills and his players.
“They'll go into the game with confidence that they can keep their good run going but I think form goes out of the window in the play-offs.”