By Tony Leighton
Coventry City will use their incredible Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area semi-final comeback against Preston North End as inspiration, says striker Leon Clarke, for the daunting task they face in the second leg of the Area Final.
The Sky Blues travel to face Crewe Alexandra on Wednesday evening needing to overturn a 3-0 deficit from the first leg, which was played in front of a record non-final crowd at the Ricoh Arena, if they are to reach the Wembley final on April 7th.
The odds are stacked heavily in Crewe's favour, but that was also the case when Preston led 2-1 at the Ricoh Arena with three minutes of stoppage time already played - yet Coventry scored twice at the death to snatch a glorious 3-2 victory.
"Unbelievable," was how the then manager Mark Robins described the amazing turnaround. But the team, now playing under caretaker boss Lee Carsley, has got to believe in the unbelievable on Wednesday night, says Clarke.
It was Clarke, signed by Robins from Charlton Athletic in January, who hit the last-gasp winner against Preston and who will be aiming to somehow repeat the feat as he looks to extend his impressive goal streak of six in his last nine games.
His latest goal came in Saturday's 2-0 npower League 1 win at Bury, just a few days after Robins' departure to Huddersfield Town, and the striker said: "We can take a lot of confidence from Saturday's result into the Trophy game.
"The manager has left, but that's part and parcel of football and you move on. Cars [Lee Carsley] hasn't tweaked things too much since he took over. It's been good working with him and it would be lovely for him if we could come through at Crewe.
"As a group of players we simply have to believe we can go there and get the result we want. We need the never-say-die attitude we showed against Preston - I thought the game was over, but as a group we kept going and got the win.
"Now we've got a big deficit to turn over, and we have to attack them. The first goal will be very important and an early goal for us would be massive, it would put pressure on Crewe's young team and our fans would make a lot of noise."
The Coventry supporters made lots of noise to no avail in the first leg, when the home fans in a near-capacity crowd of 31,054 urged on their favourites from first whistle to last but ended the night with a major disappointment.
Now the travelling fans are hoping to see disappointment turned into unbridled joy by the Sky Blues producing an unlikely victory to take to club to Wembley for the first time since their 1987 FA Cup triumph over Tottenham Hotspur.
"It's going to be very difficult," said former Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield Wednesday, Queens Park Rangers and Swindon Town striker Clarke, "but we'll go into the game with confidence and we'll give it the best we possibly can."
For all the latest news on Coventry City please click here