By Tony Leighton
LIVE: The Sky Bet Football League Play-Offs 2014
Rotherham United's Lee Frecklington reckons that nerves could be the key factor in his team's Sky Bet League 1 Play-Off Semi-Final against Preston North End - and the former Lincoln City and Peterborough United midfielder should know.
When Frecklington started his career at Lincoln in the early 1990s the Imps were in League 2 and enjoying continuous success in the regular season but then, incredibly, they missed out in the Play-Offs five years in a row.
Preston are another side who in the past have suffered with the jitters - eight times they have reached the Play-Offs, most recently in the 2008/09 Championship campaign, and eight times have they failed to clinch promotion.
"The Play-Offs are great games to play in," said Frecklington, "but nerves certainly play a part and they can be nervy occasions. The team that relaxes the most and forgets about the pressure is normally the one who goes through.
"I missed out with Lincoln, and although I was at Peterborough when they went through in the League 1 Play-Offs against Huddersfield in 2011 that was the season I was out with injury and so I actually missed playing in those games."
Having played 46 League and Cup matches this term Frecklington is determined not to miss out again as Rotherham look to beat the Lilywhites, with the first leg seeing the Millers visit Deepdale on Saturday.
When the teams met there in February Frecklington scored twice, his second goal a last-minute equaliser as Rotherham recovered from a 3-1 deficit to force a 3-3 draw and snatch a point that proved important in the final season placings.
The Millers pipped Preston to third place in the table by a single point, giving them home advantage in the second leg of the Play-Off semi. And they should be confident of returning to the New York Stadium with a satisfactory result.
They won more away games and collected more points on their travels than any club in League 1 apart from champions Wolverhampton Wanderers. "We've done well away from home," noted Frecklington, "but Preston are a tough team.
"In Simon Grayson they've got a good manager and they've got some very good players. They drew at our place in a tight match, so we know how difficult it's going to be. But we've got a lot of faith and confidence in our own ability.
"We will certainly go to Preston believing we can win, although I don't think that the league games we played against them will have much bearing on these Play-Off matches. It's a one-off tie over two legs and anything can happen.
"We want to be in it going into the second leg and then it'll be nice having home advantage and a full house. The New York Stadium is only a 12,000 capacity, but it's a really noisy place and I can assure you it will sound like a whole lot more."
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