Stakes high as Fylde chase second spot

Stephen Crainey
Stephen Crainey

Second place in the Vanarama National League North table is the sought-after spot for AFC Fylde as they prepare to embark on the three-match run to the end of the regulation season, starting with a trip to Andy Morrell’s Tamworth tomorrow.

The second-placed team will be assured of home advantage in the play-off final on May 14, provided they win through the two-legged semi-finals.

So the stakes are high for Fylde tomorrow, though first place in now beyond them.

The race for the only automatic promotion spot to the elite division of non-league football was clinched by longtime leaders Solihull Moors on Tuesday, courtesy of North Ferriby’s defeat at Stalybridge.

Coasters’ manager Dave Challinor said: “It was always a long shot that we were going to catch Solihull.

“Solihull deserve to be where they are.

“Whenever they have had a bad result, they have always showed themselves capable of bouncing back.

“To all intents and purposes we have clinched a play-off spot, barring any mathematical miracles or turnarounds, and we still have a great opportunity to finish in that second spot.”

Though the table may suggest that Fylde need more points to guarantee their top-five finish, the fact that Boston (who are fifth) and Nuneaton (sixth) still have to play each other means it is virtually impossible for both to overhaul the Coasters.

Even so, Fylde will be determined to carry on winning to keep their noses in front of North Ferriby in the race for second – the Humbersiders are a point behind with a game in hand.

Challinor is pondering a number of selection issues after rotating the squad for Monday night’s 1-0 win over Bradford Park Avenue, their first victory in four games .

The Fylde boss said: “I rested a couple of players on Monday because it wasn’t ideal having a match two days after we’d played North Ferriby.

“But I was in a position of being able to bring in players of similar quality.”

Tamworth manager Morrell, the former Blackpool striker, was at Monday’s match at Kellamergh Park against Bradford, assessing the opposition.

He saw Stephen Crainey, a Bloomfield Road team-mate in the 2007-8 Championship side, score the winner with his first Coasters goal.

And Crainey looks set to keep his place as an ankle injury could rule out Adam Sumner for the remaining three games – Arrogate (home) and Worcester (away) follow.

However, Challinor is not certain whether Sumner, who was injured at Stalybridge Celtic on April 5, could be fit for the play-offs.

The manager said: “It is hard to tell at this stage because some players heal faster than others.”