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Ebbsfleet United manager Dennis Kutrieb wants players to enjoy play-off pressure in National League South

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Ebbsfleet boss Dennis Kutrieb has told his players to enjoy being in the thick of the play-offs.

The Fleet are two games away from the National League and will host either Dartford or Chippenham at Stonebridge Road on Sunday.

Ebbsfleet midfielder Craig Tanner on the ball against Chelmsford last Saturday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC
Ebbsfleet midfielder Craig Tanner on the ball against Chelmsford last Saturday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC

Ebbsfleet finished the campaign third after beating Chelmsford last Saturday.

There’s been an air of expectation throughout the campaign given Ebbsfleet’s full-time status - but Kutrieb wants his players to embrace the occasion.

“It’s two cup finals - just make sure you’re ready to go,” said the Fleet boss. “Be high energy, be on the front foot, be confident and enjoy that you’re playing in these games.

“I told the boys during the week that if I made a call now, I would get 300 players that would love to play in the semi-final but you’re in it and you deserve to be there so just grab it and enjoy it.

“Sometimes you just have to remind the players that they need to enjoy what they’re doing.

“It’s the best time of the season to enjoy what you do because we play a nice brand of football, we try to do everything right and put so many hours in - not just me or the management team but the players as well.

“They’ve work so hard during the whole season. Now is the time you can play for something and you need to make sure you are ready to go and can grab it.”

Kutrieb believes the games will be won or lost mentally. There’s only so much more they can do physically or tactically.

While the Fleet may have earned plaudits for their expansive attacking play this term, Kutrieb warned that being the best footballing side doesn’t guarantee success.

“We don’t need to talk about the fitness level, our fitness level is outstanding,” said Kutrieb.

“We don’t need to talk about the tactical formations. Both games won’t be decided because of tactical, playing a back three, four or five. It’s down to mindset.

“Wycombe played MK Dons, who are a much better footballing side [in the League 1 play-offs]. But it didn’t matter on the day [in the first leg] when they had no chance to play and Wycombe won.

“You need to be ready in your head and your mindset needs to be ready because that’s exactly where you can decide games and where you can win or lose games.

“We have to make sure everyone is in the right state of mind to make it possible to have the best chance of winning the game.”

Ebbsfleet will host the winners of Thursday’s eliminator at Princes Park between Dartford and Chippenham in the semi-final.

It looked like Havant would fill the final play-off spot but Chippenham beat them on the final day. Fleet played Chippenham last month and Kutrieb knows plenty about Dartford so he’s happy, from a preparation point of view, that Havant didn’t make the cut. Their last meeting with Havant was in February.

“We just need to make sure that we are ready regardless of who we play,” said Kutrieb.

“Even if we would like to pick a team who we want to play, I can’t do that so we have to wait until Thursday. Then we’ll have three days to prepare for that opponent.

“With Chippenham the advantage is that we played them two weeks ago but I know Dartford quite well as they’re close and whenever we can watch them, we watch them.

“The only one I am happy about is that it can’t be Havant. The other two, for me it doesn’t matter who we play as we just need to get ready. We need to get the legs ready, the heads ready and then get going.”

Tickets are on sale to Ebbsfleet fans for the home semi-final online until 7pm on Thursday. Sales will continue in person at the ground on Friday and Saturday. Click here for details.

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