Three key fixtures ahead for AFC Fylde camp

Zaine Francis-Angol was subbed against Dagenham and Redbridge with illness      Picture: Steve McLellan
Zaine Francis-Angol was subbed against Dagenham and Redbridge with illness Picture: Steve McLellan
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Dave Challinor says the next three games for his AFC Fylde side will prove pivotal as the Coasters look to finish in the National League play-offs for the second season running.

Fylde welcome play-off rivals Eastleigh to Mill Farm this weekend for the second of back-to-back home games.

The Hampshire outfit currently sit seventh, just two spots and two points behind Challinor’s men, making Saturday’s clash a vital fixture in the hunt to finish in the top seven.

After that, the Coasters make a midweek trip up to the North East to face a Gateshead side who are just seven points behind them, before playing already relegated Braintree Town away from home.

While Fylde still have six games remaining, Challinor believes the next three will have a major bearing on how their season pans out.

“We’re in a good place, but for us the the next three games are massively important,” he told The Gazette.

“What, ideally, you want to do is consolidate your place in the play-offs in these next three games and then the final three games can almost be a free run to try and finish as high as we can.

“It’s three tough games coming up. We’re at home to Eastleigh who are obviously in the play-offs, away to Gateshead on the Tuesday who are on the fringe of the play-offs and then we go to Braintree the following Saturday who are already relegated.

“There you’ll have players who are playing for themselves and for their futures, but the three games – in our eyes – are pivotal to consolidate our spot in the play-offs.

“If we can do that then we can look at the Easter double-header and the final game as the chance to finish as high as we can.

“I think the picture will look an awful lot clearer come Easter Friday when everyone plays.”

Fylde managed to finish in the top seven last season with 73 points, a tally they are only four points away from reaching this season.

However, Challinor wants his team to surpass that record in their next three games.

“If you had asked me a target we needed maybe two or three weeks ago, it would have been a lot different to what it is now,” he added.

“That’s because teams have dropped points and you’re at that stage of the season where everyone beats everyone and there’s shock results.

“We’ve just got to keep plugging away and see where it takes us.

“We got 73 points last season to get into the play-offs and I’d imagine it will be around that total to get there.

“With us, a big thing on Saturday is that we can directly affect the result of one of our rivals.

“We don’t have a figure of where we need to get to, but from where we are now I’d love to be sat come Good Friday with an extra seven or nine points, that’s our aim.”

Fylde should have no fresh injury concerns, with Zaine Francis-Angol recovering from an illness that saw him substituted in the midweek draw against Dagenham and Redbridge.

“We’re looking okay, although Neill Byrne will be suspended,” Challinor said.

“Zaine came off on Tuesday with a bug that’s been flying around. He was struggling, came off and was really, really sick in the dressing room. But he’s fine now.

“Everybody else is in decent shape too.”