Crainey not afraid of new challenge at Fylde

AFC Fylde's Stephen Crainey
AFC Fylde's Stephen Crainey
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Nothing fazes former Premier League ace Stephen Crainey after a 15-year professional career but the AFC Fylde defender tackled something new last weekend.

The seasoned left-back had never played centre-half until the Coasters’ defensive reshuffle for their FA Trophy tie at Gateshead on Saturday.

With Josh Langley unavailable for the third round clash at the Gateshead International Stadium as he started a three-match suspension, the 34-year-old Crainey was happy to step inside to partner Tom Hannigan at the heart of the defence.

Although Ryan Bowman’s second-half strike was enough to end the Coasters’ cup interests for the season, Crainey insists he was only too happy to fill in.

The former Scotland full-back said: “I have played on the left of a back three before but not very often. I’d never really played in a two but I actually quite enjoyed it.

“Their two strikers were very physical and it was a battle, but you get that a lot in these leagues.

“I felt like I did quite well and we coped with their attack for much of the game, just one lapse in concentration cost us towards the end.

“You just have to stand up and be counted, and get on with it. I’m happy to help out wherever the manager needs me and in whatever position.”

Defeat on Tyneside cost the Coasters a place in the quarter-finals and Crainey was disappointed that their Wembley dream was dashed.

“I didn’t think there was much in the game,” added the Lytham-based defender, whose six seasons at Blackpool included their unforgettable top-flight campaign.

“I just don’t think we really got going in the second half. The first half was pretty even, but they had more of the ball after the break and put us under a bit of pressure without really having many clear-cut chances.

“In the end it was a silly goal to concede and it’s very disappointing to be out of the competition. Maybe their fitness showed toward the end because they are full-time.”

Manager Dave Challinor says the cup exit may be a blessing in disguise as Fylde focus on catching the National North leaders, but Crainey believes nobody can start thinking about promotion yet.

“We have a lot of hard work to do before we can even think about joining the likes of Gateshead in the league above us,” he said.

“There are still a lot of games coming up and we know it’s going to be very tough because there are a few teams aiming for the same thing.

“We certainly have the quality in the dressing room to go on a run of games without losing, but we need to prove that now and see where it takes us.

“We can focus on the league schedule now and we need to be picking up as many points as possible if we are to achieve our goal.”

DANIEL AGNEW