NATHAN ECCLESTON is hungry to realise a childhood dream with Town this season.
The on-loan Liverpool striker is on a learning curve which he desperately hopes will finish with a Wembley appearance.
Saturday, May 29 is the date the 19-year-old Anfield star has in mind, with the League I play-off final his target.
“It’s every boy’s dream to play at Wembley, and I’m no different,” said the Mancunian ahead of tonight’s key Pennine derby with Oldham Athletic at the Galpharm (7.45), when victory will strengthen Town’s top-six sitting.
“I’m not taking anything for granted, and I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead, as both a team and individuals, if we are to make it.
“But what a massive incentive for all of us, and wouldn’t it be brilliant to give the supporters such a special day out?”
Back as a substitute for Saturday’s showdown at Wycombe Wanderers after serving a three-match suspension following his straight red card at Gillingham, Eccleston is eager to maximise the benefit of his time with Town.
“When I signed up, there were 21 games available, and it’s amazing how quickly they’ve gone,” added the player who netted on his debut to seal the 1-0 win at Yeovil on January 30 and replaced Theo Robinson after 61 minutes at Wycombe on Saturday.
He has made four Town starts and four substitute appearances to go with his two from the bench for Liverpool and added: “Obviously three games were taken out of the equation by the suspension, which was a blow, but there are still seven matches left, and hopefully three more after that.
“I’d love to be involved in the whole lot, and I’d really like to repay the faith the management, the rest of the players and the fans have shown in me.
“They’ve made me welcome from the off, which for a young lad like myself, was important, and it’s quite overwhelming really, because while I’ve only been here a few months, it feels like ages.
“It’s been a great experience, because I’ve had to come out of what I know at Liverpool and get used to new surroundings and new methods, but I’ve really enjoyed it.
“It’s not over yet, either, and like I said, I’d be delighted if my season was extended to May 29.”
While on-loan Town midfielder Jim Goodwin can’t face his parent club tonight under the terms of his Boundary Park switch, former Galpharm favourite Andy Holdsworth is out injured and Keigan Parker on loan at Bury, ex-Town skipper Jon Worthington and Pawel Abbott, the Latics’ 13-goal top scorer, are in line for a return to familiar territory.
Oldham are aiming to build on Saturday’s 1-0 home win over fellow strugglers Gillingham sealed by on-loan Doncaster striker Lewis Guy’s 59th-minute goal.
The victory eased some of the pressure on boss Dave Penney, who said: “It was a must-win game and we did it. We were resolute and we worked our socks off.
“Lewis has given us that extra bit up front in terms of pace and quality and he took his chance well.
“And Sean Gregan was immense at the back, as he has been all season. Both he and Reuben Hazell thrive on the kind of challenges they had against Gillingham’s frontmen.”
Town are seeking a first home win seven attempts and a sixth double of the campaign after Robbie Williams’ free-kick special sealed a 1-0 victory at Boundary Park in November.
The five so far were over MK Dons, Hartlepool, Yeovil, Leyton Orient and Wycombe.