Head coach Warren Spragg knows winning is all that matters as his Fylde side look to protect their top-two spot in National Two North – but he wishes they would stop hanging on grimly for those wins after seeing healthy leads slip.
Indeed, Wharfedale’s second-half fightback in Fylde’s nailbiting 24-17 Woodlands win in their first match of 2020 left Spragg to joke: “The half-time team-talks must be rubbish. I might stop going into the dressing room and just let the players get on with it!”
The North Yorkshire side steadily reduced a 17-3 deficit against a Fylde team who had four players sinbinned in a resilient rearguard action.
It’s not the first time this season that Fylde have relied on first-half pointscoring and second-half defending to see them home and Spragg added: “The sinbinnings were a bit harsh but we were under a lot of pressure defensively. And if you are giving penalties away, then it’s inevitable you will get yellow cards.
“We do need to be better in the second half and keep up the intensity. Maybe I should leave it to the players at half-time!
“But I don’t mind defending at the end of a game if we have a four-try bonus point in the bag. We’ll take that.”
On this occasion there were extenuating circumstances for a loss of intensity as the game wore on.
Spragg added: “We trained on the Thursday before Wharfedale and that’s the only session we’d had since the Preston Grasshoppers game (on December 21).
“So we’d trained for one hour in a fortnight, whereas normally we’d have had four sessions in that time.
“But I was happy with our performance for the most part and we took our tries well.
“There was some really good attacking play, and although our game-management was poor, the effort was there to stop them from scoring. It’s certainly not a bad way to start the year.”
Ultimately Fylde got the maximum points they needed to protect second spot and their four-point advantage over Sedgley Park, who have a game in hand.
“It’s all about winning whether you are playing the bottom team or the top one,” said Spragg, “so we have to get the selections right and the training right because we can afford no slip-ups. It’s a good sort of pressure to have.”
Twelve league places separate Spragg’s side from Huddersfield – tomorrow’s opponents in Fylde’s first away game of the year.
But the coach feels the table could be deceptive, saying: “They were winning until the last play against Sedgley Park last weekend and they beat Loughborough in December, when they lost some close games.
“They are getting back to playing like last year (when they finished fourth), with their physical forwards and speed out wide.
“They struggled with injuries early in the season but are finding their feet. This will be a harder game than the league table would suggest.”
Olli Parkinson misses out with a knee injury but the Fylde pack will be boosted by the return of Matt Garrod.
Spragg should also have flanker Phill Mills available for the rest of the season after his impressive appearance off the bench against Hoppers three weeks ago. Mills is still on loan from Rossendale but Spragg hopes a permanent switch will be finalised.
Fylde head to Lockwood Park tomorrow having defeated the Yorkshiremen 40-10 in Ansdell in September.
A repeat of that performance would suit Spragg just fine – especially as Fylde scored most of their points in the second half that day.