Nelson still hopes to make it to Wembley
STUART Nelson has been forced to give up VIP tickets for today's FA Cup final, but he still hopes to go to Wembley this season by reaching the play-offs final in League One with Notts County.
Goalkeeper Nelson, 30, was invited to the Cup final by the Football Association and sponsors Budweiser after winning the Player of the Round award when the Magpies beat non-league Sutton United in the second round of the world's most famous Cup competition last December.
But he can't go because the Magpies face Colchester United at Meadow Lane in their biggest game of the season.
They are still in the hunt for the final place in the play-offs because they only trail sixth-placed Stevenage on goal-difference in seventh, while Carlisle United are only a point behind in eighth.
"This is just a bit of a bigger game, I can watch the Cup final on TV," smiled the Magpies' No.1.
"Fingers crossed I will still get to go to Wembley, that is everyone's aim here. That is what we're all driven by, but it's not in our hands. The only thing that is, is getting three points today. That is all we can do."
If Stevenage beat Bury at Broadhall Way they will clinch sixth place, even if the Magpies win, so Nelson and all of his team-mates are praying their rivals slip up against the Shakers, who beat Notts 4-2 at Meadow Lane only two weeks ago.
"It's all to play for going into the last game of the season, which we never thought would happen before the new manager came in," said Nelson.
"The play-offs were almost lost and we've got ourselves back into a good position. It's not in our own hands, but we've taken it to the last game."
Despite needing Stevenage to drop points, Nelson insists the Magpies' focus cannot stray from beating Colchester because if they lose to them their play-off hopes are all over.
"We can't look at them," he said. "We have got to go out and win our game. If we say we've only got to get a better result than Stevenage, Carlisle might nip in.
"We have to go out in front of a home crowd and produce a performance to win the game because we can't affect anything else."
It is only a year ago that Notts went into their last game of the season battling against relegation into League Two and yet they have been as high as third place in League One during this campaign under former boss Martin Allen and new manager Keith Curle has led them to nine wins in his first 15 games in charge to give them a chance of finishing in the play-offs and having a shot at promotion into the Championship.
"We have never been in the position we were last season so even before then new manager came in it was still a more positive season," said Nelson.
"He has come in and we've been on an unbelievable run. We've had eight clean-sheets, which is double what I had before, and we now aim to keep another one today.
"To get to where we have got I think is pretty good. We need to keep it going, keep pushing and finish the season in the right way now."
It promises to be a tense day at Meadow Lane, but Nelson insists none of the players are feeling under pressure, but rather relaxed.
"Since the manager has come in he's tried to get us to play and express ourselves. He's not put us under too much pressure himself so the only pressure comes from ourselves as professionals to go out and give the best performances we can," he said.
"I can see us doing well if we get into the play-offs, so we need to win this game. Hopefully we will win and we will see where it leaves us. If it leaves us outside the play-offs on goal-difference then so be it, but strange things happen in football.
"There is always a twist come the end of the season and let's hope it is in our favour."
The Magpies finished three points above the relegation zone in League One in the end last season, after claiming a draw against newly-crowned League One champions Brighton at Meadow Lane in their last game.
Nelson insists the stakes are even higher in today's game.
"The rewards are bigger because it's a chance to make it into the Championship which is where every player here wants to be," he said.
"It's been such a roller-coaster ride since I came here, from struggling last season to doing well this season to having a few different managers.
"We're still going and let's hope we can finish it off on a high. It would be unbelievable if we do it."