AFC Fylde chairman David Haythornthwaite has been impressed by the football, fans and form of Stockport County and says it will not be easy to beat the National League North side in their FA Trophy semi-final.
Both clubs are battling for promotion in their respectively leagues but they break off to do battle over two legs for a place at Wembley, with the opening leg at Fylde’s Mill Farm tomorrow.
Dave Challinor’s Coasters sit fourth in the National League table, six points behind leaders Leyton Orient, who are their next league opponents a week on Tuesday.
Fylde go into tomorrow’s first leg unbeaten in five games following Tuesday’s 4-2 home win over Hartlepool United.
Jim Gannon’s Stockport County went on a mammoth 23-game unbeaten run which took them to the summit of National League North but that was halted with defeat to Brackley Town last weekend, when long-time leaders Chorley regained top spot.
Now both Fylde and County will battle it out to play Leyton Orient or AFC Telford at Wembley.
Fylde host County first and then travel to Stockport next Saturday. And it is a mouthwatering clash for owner Haythornthwaite, who praised the work of Gannon and company.
The Fylde supremo says his club will have to be at their best to deny County a Wembley visit.
He told The Gazette: “Stockport have been on an amazing run. Everything they seem to do they are turning to gold at the moment.
“They have been playing fantastic and have got a great team.
“It is a massive club. The other weekend they had 6,000-plus fans on in the Conference North. That is unbelievable.
“It will be a cracking tie. If we are to be good enough to get to Wembley we are going to have to beat Stockport and that is not going to be easy!”
One thing both sets of fans can expect if the disciplinary tables are anything to go by is a well-behaved cup clash.
AFC Fylde have the second-best disciplinary record in the National League, with just 59 yellow cards and no reds this season.
Stockport County might have spent only one week at the top of the National League North table but they are still top of the fair play chart, with just 33 yellows and one red card from their 45 games in all competitions.
And with fourth-placed Fylde facing nine more league games after this semi-final double header, Haythornthwaite pointed to the disciplinary factor as a big plus at the business end of the term.
He said: “One of the things that is important at this time of the year is having a fit squad but also a lack of suspensions.
“We have been very good on that front. Our disciplinary record is amazing.
“This year we have been lucky with injuries, touch wood, but we lost our captain (Lewis Montrose) but obviously there is not much you can do about that.
“Our physio team this year are really good and they have kept the players fit.
“In the run-in, when we are going to be playing Saturday-Tuesday from now almost until the end of the season, you need a fairly big squad, and you need them to be fit and not suspended.
“Look at what happened with PSG and Neymar, though it is a different.
“Being fit and a free of suspensions is important and I think that will help us in the remaining games”