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HEART OF OAK; JOHNSTONE'S PAINT CREWE v SOUTHEND, 1.15PM TROPHY FINAL, TOMORROW Tomlin: I'll lift cup and dedicate it to Sturrock.

Byline: JAMES NURSEY

GAVIN TOMLIN aims to fire Southend to glory and dedicate victory to Paul Sturrock for inspiring his goal-scoring heroics.

Tomlin has excelled at Roots Hall with 16 goals since his ex-boss signed him last summer and played him up front in League Two.

It's the first time in his career he has been given a prolonged run as a striker after mainly playing out wide previously and his form has even kept Southend legend Freddy Eastwood on the bench.

Tomlin, 28, was sad when Sturrock was axed last month but the top scorer is now also thriving under successor Phil Brown.

And he plans to seek out Sturrock in Southend's 31,100 Wembley following and lift the Johnstone's Paint Trophy for his old boss.

Ahead of tomorrow's clash with League One Crewe, Tomlin said: "Paul Sturrock has been a big help for me this season. I texted him recently and thanked him.

"He showed a lot of faith in me. I went 13 league games without a goal at the beginning of the season. But even when I wasn't scoring, Sturrock kept me up front and it gave me a lot of confidence.

"It would have been easy for him with Fred on the bench to put him in the team - perhaps even easier.

"But he kept playing me and I owe him a lot. I was able to go on and score as many goals as I have. I am really thankful to him for that.

"Paul is going to Wembley with the fans he told me, so I will try and find him in the crowd and give him a wave if I score."

Despite being axed last month as Southend's promotion bid faltered, Sturrock was unusually still given the chance to take the team for tomorrow's showpiece.

But the proud Scot refused and Tomlin added: "It would have been really awkward for him to come back in. It would have been strange and surreal."

Tomlin will enjoy his day in the spotlight after a career in the lower leagues with Brentford, Yeovil, Dagenham & Redbridge, Torquay and Gillingham. And with his contract up this summer, he wants to put himself in the shop window.

He said: "It is definitely my best season so far. In other teams previously, I got pushed to the wings but my goal ratio up front was good for Torquay and Gillingham.

"I was happy to play on the wing for the team but your strengths can be your downfall sometimes.

"Now this game is a good platform for me to showcase my ability as a striker."

Tomlin's previous biggest match was the League Two play-off final for Torquay against Stevenage in 2011 at Old Trafford. He produced man-of-the-match displays against Shrewsbury in the two-legged semi but missed out on promotion.

Now he is desperate for his first medal - and to repay Sturrock.

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ROOTS OF SUCCESS Gavin Tomlin says he owes his form to Paul Sturrock (below)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2013
Words:498
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