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Holt recalls the heartache of past play-offs

Gary Holt is a fan of the play-offs.

Sitting pretty: Gary Holt has been named as the SPFL Championship manager of the month for April. Picture: SNS
Sitting pretty: Gary Holt has been named as the SPFL Championship manager of the month for April. Picture: SNS

That is not all that easy for him to say given that his relationship with them has at times been painful and more often than not has seemed rather one-sided. As a midfielder with Norwich City, Nottingham Forest and Wycombe Wanderers, Holt kept going back to the play-offs and it always ended in heartache.

He has renewed his acquaintance with two-legged knockout affairs this season as manager of Falkirk, with his side to face Hamilton Academical in the first leg of a promotion semi-final this evening. The road to the SPFL Premiership has cleared a little after Queen of the South were knocked out of the way at the weekend and a tie with Hibernian awaits later this month.

It is a tantalising prospect for either Falkirk or Hamilton - clubs which finished the regular season just one point apart - even when Holt recalls his rather sorry play-off history. "The play-offs with Norwich in 2002 were especially cruel because it was the first year they had scrapped the golden goal rule and we scored in the first minute of extra-time," said the Falkirk manager.

"Luck didn't shine on us in that respect but we were the better team over 120 minutes and in the penalties it wasn't to be. It was a spectacle and it was a great game to be involved in and a great game for the fans to watch - we just never got the rub of the green on the day.

"The other two play-offs were semi-finals, so not great experiences in terms of not getting through. But to be a part of them was brilliant. They were great experiences and that's what you want. You want something to keep the buzz alive at the end of the season and it's great that we have done that with Saturday's performance to get through to the next round.

"You need the experience of it, you need to sample it. We're fortunate because some of us will have played in cup semi-finals and cup finals. We've got big-match experience and we've got the hurt that goes with it. We've got hurt of the Scottish Cup semi-final [last season] and the players can hang on to that, they know how it feels.

"You need a wee bit of failure now and again to sample success the next time, because it means you know what it takes. It's stood us in good stead this season because the young boys have come through the difficult times we've had. They can look back and think 'I don't want that again, let's push on again'."

Falkirk will be forced to do things the hard way if they are to go all the way to the Premiership. The matches with Queens have left Falkirk exhausted and Holt yesterday described his squad as the "walking wounded". He added: "It doesn't give ourselves, or Queen of the South had they got through, a fair chance, realistically."

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