Challinor want play-off pedigree to count

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Dave Challinor hopes his promotion know-how will rub off on his AFC Fylde team tonight as the manager bids to go up for the fourth season running in the Evo-Stik League.

His current side must do it the hard way if they are to reach the Conference North – should they win away at Hednesford Town in the play-offs tonight, they would have to travel again for Friday’s final against FC United or Witton Albion.

That’s the price to pay for qualifying in the final play-off place (fifth) but Challinor is undaunted.

While he guided Fylde to automatic promotion to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier last season, his two previous seasons with Colwyn Bay saw them go up via the play-offs, and the manager hopes that experience will help his players tonight.

Challinor told The Gazette: “I don’t think it makes much difference whether you are home and away in play-offs. We were in the same position at Colwyn Bay first time we went up – we went to Curzon Ashton and won and then beat Lancaster away in the final.The Football League play-offs have also shown that home advantage doesn’t mean much.

“So hopefully I can pass on my knowledge, but although you try your best to prepare the players, it ultimately depends on what is going on in their heads during the 90 minutes. Whoever plays the game rather than the occasion will win.

“But I’m not the only one with experience. A lot of my players have played at a higher level and have won matches like this. I hope that bit of experience will shine through because there’s no better way to be promoted and no worse way to miss out.”

If Saturday’s clash between the sides at Kellamergh Park is anything to go by, a tight contest can be expected.

Aaron Rey sealed a 2-1 win for Hednesford, but whereas there was little riding on that match for Fylde the visitors needed victory to keep alive their hopes of pipping North Ferriby to the title.

Challinor, the 37-year-old former Bury and Tranmere defender, certainly expects another close encounter.

“We have rested players and will be at full-strength. I expect it to be tight and whoever turns up on the night will win.

“We have the belief and I have a few difficult decisions to make to select a final 16 from 20 players.”