FOOTBALL: Smith - We have to finish the job at Yate today
CIRENCESTER TOWN striker Lee Smith insists today’s Calor League title decider at Yate is ‘the biggest game of his career’.
Three points clear of Merthyr who have, on paper at least, an easier task at Thatcham Town in their final game, Ciren require just a draw to clinch the championship.
And Smith reckons they must finish the job this afternoon and not rely on the lottery of the play-offs to get promoted.
“Having come this far I think we will all be devastated if we don’t win the title now,” said Smith.
“In fact, if we ended up in the play-offs it might be hard to lift ourselves up again.
“And as for getting a runners-up medal, you can keep it.
“I’ve played at a higher level, won things at a higher level – promotion with AFC Telford from the Conference North and promotion with Gloucester City from the Southern Premier ¬ but this is the biggest game of my career.”
Smith’s contribution, not least his 32 league goals so far, has been key to Cirencester’s success.
From the moment he turned up to pre-season training it was a leaner meaner Smith and he has maintained his form remarkably well throughout the campaign.
Indeed, he could have had more goals but for an arrangement with strike partner Steve Davies.
“Davo and I are great mates and we decided to go through the season taking any penalties in alternate games,” said Smith.
“So I got to take the pen which opened the scoring against Shortwood on Monday, but Davo will take any in the Yate game.
“I knew the squad that Hughesie (manager Brian Hughes) had put together at the start of the season was capable of getting to the play-offs but to be honest I didn’t think we could win the league.
“We were well adrift of Merthyr at one stage but the team spirit of this set of lads is amazing. I’d like to go up and stay with Ciren next year – because if Hughesie can keep the majority of this team together, we can do well.”
Smith also revealed his part in the infamous changing room verbal bust-up which sparked Ciren’s late-season surge.
“We had just gone five games without a win after losing in the last minute at Didcot,” he said.
“I think Jonah (James Mortimer-Jones) started it and Jody (Bevan) and myself – the senior lads – said our piece.
“We were in danger of letting all the hard work slip away and the younger members of the squad needed to be told that it is only rarely that you get the chance to win things in football, or any sport for that matter.
“After that, our run-in looked horrendous – seven local derbies, all against top teams, and yet we have won the first six of them.”
On a personal level Smith has another reason for adding to his goal tally in the final game – staying ahead of Yate’s Lewis Haldane in the race to be second top goal-scorer in the division.
“I’ve really enjoyed my football this season and it has shown in my goals. I once scored 23 in the Conference North and 20 plus in the Southern Premier but never anything like 38 in all competitions as I have this term,” he said.
“I can’t catch Richard Gregory of Stratford but I am two ahead of Haldane and I would like it to stay that way.
“There’s another reason for putting one over on Yate because only one team, Swindon Supermarine, has done the double over Ciren this season and Yate did beat us 1-0 at the Corinium in December.”
As for any possible celebrations Smith said: “We have put all superstition aside and we are bringing our good clothes along as we intend to be going out to celebrate.”
And as for some commemorative body ink on his heavily-tattooed body, he added: “It is not in my plans, but the boys are all heading away for four days after the season is over and I wouldn’t be the first who has returned with a new tattoo after a drunken night in Magaluf!”