By Tony Leighton
Semi-final defeats have twice robbed Sean Clohessy of a debut Wembley appearance, so it will be third time lucky for the Southend United defender when he steps out to face Crewe Alexandra in Sunday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final.
And the 26-year-old former Gillingham player, who dropped into non-league before resurrecting his professional career at Southend, wants not only to tread the national stadium turf but also to claim a payback victory over Crewe.
After being part of the Salisbury City team that lost in the two-leg semi-final of the FA Trophy in 2010, Clohessy missed out again last year as the Shrimpers went down in the two-leg semi of the npower League 2 Play-Offs - to Crewe.
"It was very disappointing to miss out on Wembley with Salisbury," Clohessy told football-league.co.uk, "but even more so with Southend because it cost us the chance to go on and clinch what I think would have been a deserved promotion.
"We'd been in the top three for practically the whole of the season and missed out on automatic promotion only by a single point - and we finished 11 points ahead of Crewe, who only got in the top seven with a late run.
"It was very frustrating, but that's the sort of thing you go through in football. We used our disappointment as motivation to go for promotion again this season, and it will definitely be motivation to beat Crewe in the Trophy Final."
Play-Offs heartache meant spending another season in League 2 for Clohessy and the Blues, while the Railwaymen shunted their way up to League 1 via a 2-0 Wembley Play-Off Final victory over Cheltenham Town.
So while Southend were the favourites going into last term's Play-Off semi-final, Crewe - currently 12th in League 1, while Southend are 10th in League 2 and six points below the Play-Off places - will be expected to lift the Trophy on Sunday.
"We'll be the underdogs," admitted Clohessy, a Southend ever-present this season, "but that won't worry us. We've tended to perform better against the higher teams in League 2, and we've also done well against League 1 sides.
"We knocked Bury out of the FA Cup, we beat Leyton Orient over two legs in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy semi-final, and we got very close to Brentford when we drew 2-2 with them in the FA Cup but then lost 2-1 in the replay at their place."
Clohessy's optimism for Sunday is well-founded, though a run of indifferent results in the league has seen manager Paul Sturrock recently replaced by Phil Brown as the Shrimpers lost touch with the main promotion protagonists.
Sturrock had brought Clohessy back from non-league level to The Football League, so the defender has mixed feelings about the managerial change as he looks to help his team to a Trophy triumph and back to Play-Off contention.
"Paul Sturrock is a good manager and a great person," said Clohessy, "and I've enjoyed working with him. But sometimes chairmen think that a change is needed, and the new manager has come in like a breath of fresh air.
"We're still in with a chance of reaching the Play-Offs, but the players are aiming to enjoy a great day at Wembley for ourselves and our families, for the club and the fans - and winning the Trophy would make the day perfect."
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