Play-offs wide open says AFC Fylde boss
AFC Fylde's target might be to reach the Football League in 2022 but now three wins stand in the way of Dave Challinor and his men doing that with four years to spare.
If they can overcome that double header then a trip to Wembley awaits, though Challinor maintains they must climb a mountain to get there.
The winners will join champions Macclesfield Town in League Two and Challinor believes anyone can win the play-offs.
He said: “We came into the league this year knowing that we are one step away – but it is the biggest step!
“I think this year has been quite unique. I think some people will look at this league and think the quality has not been great this year but I tend to disagree.
“I don’t think there has been a stand-out team.
“Credit to Macclesfield for being champions. They had a great run and were probably the most consistent over the season.
“Nobody has really stood out. You look at last year –Lincoln and Tranmere were a long way ahead of everyone else, so I suppose this year it gives a real opportunity.
“Even in the last two months of the season, if you’d have asked me who was going to win the league I’d have got it wrong!
“Similarly with these play-offs – they are wide open. Yes, it is touchable and you can nearly reach it but it is still a long way away.
“To get in the Football League is the aim and the objective but doing it is a completely different thing.
“It would be an amazing achievement but hopefully we can get in there. We have given ourselves a chance.
“I would have said two or three weeks ago, getting in the play-offs would have been great for us.
“If we hadn’t got in, would we have been expected to? Probably not.
“But would there have been some disappointment? Absolutely because your outcomes and objectives change and you realise you are that close.
“We want to be successful and get promoted. We have a chance to do that and we are in with a shot.”
One thing Challinor can draw upon is his previous experience of play-offs, both with the Coasters and his former club Colwyn Bay.
That said, Challinor admits those prior play-off experiences do not count for much once the matches are under way.
He said: “Moving into non-league football has been strewn with different play-off scenarios.
“At Colwyn Bay we had three. We got beaten on penalties in the first season I was there, won the following season, then we won through the play-offs.
“It has been very similar here – penalties have been involved.
“And it is a very unique environment, even more so this year.
“It is different again with one game away from home and already knowing who you will play in the next stage.
“It is very different but it is on the night – whoever performs best the majority of the time will go through.
“There can be little bit of luck and refereeing mistakes that you hope do not ultimately cost you and decide the fate of one season.
“That is why it is so much a lottery because anything can happen on the day or on the night.
“There will be lots of emotion – 22 lads out there wanting to do anything to win and a whole lot of lads on the sidelines.
“They are really tense but there is no better way of getting promoted than through the play-offs because of the tension and the joy it can bring in a one-off game.
“Over the course the best team out of the six that are left goes through and deserves to be promoted.”