WHEN it comes to penalties and play-offs, Tommy Miller has been through the mill.

As a player he endured six campaigns, winning just the once – and that after he missed the first spot kick in a Wembley shoot-out for Huddersfield.

This weekend, he’s ready for what could be the biggest play-off achievement of the lot; the assistant manager focused on getting Spennymoor Town into the National League.

Moors go to Chorley in the final of the National League North play-offs, their place secured after a frantic shoot-out win at Brackley last weekend.

“As a player I made the play-offs a lot. I think my first four play-offs I lost in the semi-finals, two with Hartlepool and two with Ipswich!’’ he laughed.

“After that at Swindon I lost, but Huddersfield won at Wembley so I’m hoping to follow that one….’’

Moors won 5-4 last Sunday and Miller admitted: “I took penalties as a player, watching as a coach… I’d rather be taking one. The game could have gone either way, we both had chances to score.

“We missed one, the keeper saves it, then they get in front and you think it’s not going to be.

“Then their striker misses to win it for them and we scored, got on the front foot.

“There’s a pressure on the players in a shoot-out. You can give all the advice you can – don’t change your mind, hit the target, focus, but it’s a long walk from the halfway line be it a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, fifty thousand people watching.

“You have to stick to your thoughts, go with it and thankfully there was some fantastic penalties. It’s a better feeling when you win after you’ve missed one.’’

Moors’ progression in recent years under Jason Ainsley has been remarkable. They will be backed by around 1,000 fans this weekend and victory would see them compete at the same level as Hartlepool United next season.

They started in Northern League Division Two just 14 years ago.

“The club’s come a long way in a short space of time – promotion after promotion and I don’t think Jason gets enough credit from outside,’’ mused Miller.

“People say it’s about money, but it’s not an open chequebook. The wages people talk about, it’s nowhere near.

“It’s about the right fit with players and his man-management, his biggest strength, is superb. He gets the right mix in and knows what we need.

“He cleared the decks a bit last year and the aim was play-offs this year. We’ve achieved it. To get promoted… the thought of playing Hartlepool and Notts County next season is scary.’’

Moors were denied a play-off spot last season in the last seconds of the season as Bradford PA pipped them. This time, despite a poor run in March, there’s been no falling over.

“We were close last year, we had to go one better and the chairman said that,’’ added Miller. “What he’s done for the club over the years is phenomenal. We have had that pressure to achieve.

“To lose out in in last seconds of last season and playing four games a week, home games at Harrogate on a plastic pitch, it was like everything went against us.

“There was a determination to go again and we have come back better for it.

“We had a terrible March this season. Eight weeks ago we could have won the league, it was us, Chorley and Stockport. Then we got hit by a loss of form, couldn’t see how we would win a game, couldn’t score, were conceding.

“We made some signings, Scott Harrison, Lewis Hawkins, Jack Diamond, and its’ been a monumental effort and came through the last few weeks with injuries.’’

Chairman and owner Brad Groves has plans to take the club into the Football League. Sunday is the next step on the progress ladder.

Miller, who chalked up 600 career appearances and had a spell as joint caretaker boss at Swindon in 2103 after Paolo Di Canio went to Sunderland, added: “The chairman has ambitions and realising them is his aim. When I first came to the club I met him and listened to his plans – all he said he has delivered. He tells you how it is and puts his money where his mouth is behind the scenes.

“It’s all in place to move the club forward. It’s going places.

“From the outside you get a feeling of how it’s going but from inside you see it different and appreciate what has been done. Next season you will see a big difference again with the ground.

“I came in at the start of last season and it was like starting out as a player again. I’d been to Halifax as assistant manager, but things didn’t quite work out in the end.

“I honestly think going to Spennymoor has been great learning curve for me. I want to get as high as a I can as a manager and being assistant here under Jason is the ideal position.

“I’m hands on with coaching and Jay allows me the freedom to coach. We brought Paul Midgley in too and we have a good mix there. It’s a great experience, one I’m loving every minute of.’’