Branston makes Boro favourites

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Torquay defender Guy Branston believes the pressure is on Stevenage as they go head to head for promotion in the npower League Two play-off final at Old Trafford.

The Gulls, who booked their place in the showpiece final with a two-legged semi-final victory over Shrewsbury, were among the pre-season favourites for relegation but surprised many by finishing seventh in the table.

It was a similarly impressive season for Stevenage as they took to the Football League instantly, finishing sixth in their debut season in the fourth tier after running away with the Blue Square Bet Premier last term.

But Branston, who was named in the Professional Footballers' Association League Two Team of the Year, believes the pressure is on Stevenage, who operate with a bigger budget.

"It is a one-off game," Branston said.

"No matter what anyone says about Stevenage, they are a big club at Conference and League Two level and they want to progress.

"Their manager (Graham Westley) is so ambitious it's frightening and anyone who is ambitious is well liked by me.

"They are a big, big club and the pressure is on them. We are a raggedy bunch of lads who are put together on a shoestring and the undervalued lot of the division. They will be more nervous."

The game could have been the second time Torquay graced Old Trafford this season as they missed out on an FA Cup fifth-round tie against Manchester United when they were beaten by Crawley.

Branston, who is still waiting on a new contract offer from the club, is determined to make the most of a second chance.

"The hunger is there. If you're starved of something then you want it even more," he added.

"I am so hungry for it, I need that fix. The lads are the same, we missed out against Crawley. Now we have that chance again.

"It is by far the biggest game of my career. It has got everything - promotion riding on it, playing at Manchester United and hopefully a new deal at the end of it for me. I can't wait.

"Ending the season at Manchester United's ground, hopefully with promotion, after the season I have had both personally and as a team is just a different class.

"It's a long, hard season with a lot of ups and downs. We have got enough team spirit and organisation to do well and then we will party like it's 2000 again!"

Manager Paul Buckle has a fully-fit squad to choose from but influential centre-back Jon Ashton is touch and go for Stevenage.

Boro's player of the season is still struggling with the calf strain that forced him to miss the second leg of the semi-final triumph over Accrington, with Darren Murphy coming in at the Crown Ground as the only change from the first leg.

Ashton is one of just several players battling knocks although Westley expects adrenaline to get them through.

Westley is keeping the identity of those players close to his chest although he is boosted by the return of midfielder John Mousinho after a three-match suspension.

Mousinho missed both legs of the semi-final but comes back into the fold at Old Trafford, although defender Luke Foster serves the final instalment of his four-match ban.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Guy Branston
Luke Foster
League Two
FA Cup
John Mousinho

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