AFC Fylde boss Jim Bentley relishes top test against Brackley Town
“These are the big games you are in football for,” said AFC Fylde manager Jim Bentley ahead of tomorrow’s top-two tussle against Brackley Town at Mill Farm.
Tuesday’s 2-0 home win over Spennymoor Town saw Brackley pull level with Fylde at the top of National League North and the Northamptonshire club have a game in hand.
Goal difference (Fylde’s is three better) is all that is keeping the Coasters at the top after losing their last two away fixtures, most recently 2-1 at Curzon Ashton last Saturday.
It makes for a mouthwatering contest and boss Bentley can’t wait.
He told The Gazette: “It’s still quite early in the season but it’s being labelled a six-pointer.
“There’s very little between the clubs at the moment and it’s a game we are really looking forward to.
“Chaddy (Bentley’s assistant Nick Chadwick) and I went to watch them on Tuesday. It was good to see them up close and they deserved to win.
“They are very energetic and a decent footballing side. They have some experienced players who have played together for a long time.
“They have key players, like Lee Ndlovu, up front, and a manager (Kevin Wilkin) who they have kept faith with and who knows the game.
“They are under the radar for some people but they have a real spirit about them.”
Chairman David Haythornthwaite added: “Brackley are probably a club nobody thought about at the start of the season but over the years we’ve had some real tussles with them.
“They have always been a well-run club and well-organised. They are flying because they have experience.”
But Bentley is well aware his squad has the calibre to counter Brackley’s threats and he is looking for a positive response after defeat at Curzon for the second successive season.
The Coasters boss added: “I don’t think we deserved to lose that game. There were two uncharacteristic errors by (goalkeeper) Chris Neal, who has been superb for us all season, and we dominated possession.
“Whenever we have lost this season we’ve bounced back to win the next game and we’ve prepared well this week, so hopefully we’ll turn it on tomorrow.”
Striker Jack Sampson missed the Curzon game with an injury picked up seven days earlier against Gateshead and could return.
“Potentially Jack could be fit and we’ll see how he reacts,” said Bentley. “We have been hampered by injuries this season.
“It seems that whenever one or two come back we lose one or two more and they aren’t just niggles.
“We are talking about injuries keeping players out for months, like Danny Philliskirk and Nathan Shaw.
“Now we have Alex Whitmore, who is a massive miss for us. He’s best centre-back in the league in my opinion.
“But we have enough about us to compete at home. We’ve done our homework and gone through their strengths and weaknesses.”
A bonus for Bentley has been the form of right-back Kieran Lloyd on loan from Wigan Athletic.
Thrown in at the deep end, the teenager has slotted straight in as short-term replacement for the injured Luke Burke and the manager added: “Kieran has been excellent and is one who come out of last week’s game with credit.
“He has got an assist in two games and he’s great in training.”
Lloyd followed Blackburn’s Dan Pike in agreeing a one-month Coasters deal to cover for the recovering Burke and Bentley added: “Luke is doing all right but he isn’t training flat out yet and we have to manage him right.”
Blackpool’s North West Counties League clubs are both at home tomorrow.
Squires Gate face a tough test against third-placed Wythenshawe Town in the premier division.
Wythenshawe leapfrogged Charnock Richard by beating them 4-2 in midweek but Gate are anxious to climb the table – they are just two places above the bottom two at present.
Buoyed by the return of manager Martin Baird and a 1-1 draw away to First Division North leaders Bury AFC on Tuesday, sixth-placed Blackpool will be confident for the visit of Daisy Hill, who are second-bottom but fresh from a win over Ashton Town.
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