So near and yet so far. That was the scenario facing AFC Fylde as they entered the clash with FC Halifax Town at The Shay on Friday.
They crossed the Pennines to West Yorkshire knowing that two more wins out of the remaining four fixtures would secure the Vanarama National League title and promotion to the fifth tier of English football.
Today’s clash is followed by a home match with Bradford Park Avenue on Monday, followed by a trip to Boston United on April 22, before finishing off the campaign with a home fixture against Worcester City on April 29.
AFC manager Dave Challinor said: “We have won 23 matches already, so to win two more may not seem too much, but the most difficult part is finishing the job off and getting across that line to achieve what we set out to achieve at the start of the season.
“The players know what is at stake and we have to deal with that, as well as bouncing back from our last match (a 2-1 defeat away to struggling Stalybridge Celtic).
“But we have enough experience to do it and thrive in this sort of environment.”
The Coasters’ boss continued: “If we had been offered a six-point lead at the start of the season with four matches to go, I would certainly have taken it.”
Third-placed Halifax Town are themselves going for promotion, entering the match seven points adrift of Fylde.
Town are managed by Billy Heath, who was the helm at North Ferriby United last season when they denied Fylde a chance of promotion in the play-offs.
Challinor said: “I know Billy well and he has done a good job at Halifax because they are club with big expectations of being in a higher position than what they are.
“We know a lot about each other’s side, so I don’t think either of us will come up with anything that causes a surprise.”
Challinor is hoping to have a near fully fit squad to take into the weekend.
He said “We will be last minute with a few ahead of the weekend and it’s going to be a quick turnaround between Friday and Monday.”
Caspar Hughes was due to train on Thursday, but he is expected to be fully fit.
Fylde are awaiting the results of a scan on a back injury for James Hardy.
Challinor said: “We have to be careful with James as he suffered a stress facture at the time he was playing for Manchester City.”
The AFC Fylde manager said: “Aside from that, everyone has trained this week and they are fit and well for the weekend.”
Fylde kept their six-point lead on Tuesday as a result of main rivals Kidderminster Harriers succumbing to a 1-0 loss at Stalybridge.