Fylde RFC’s form has improved in recent weeks – now head coach Paul Arnold insists their discipline has to follow suit.
Back-to-back wins over Cinderford and Henley have seen the Woodlands club gain momentum and climb into the top half of National One – but if that progress is to continue, Arnold realises they must learn to keep 15 players on the field.
Flanker Ben Vernon has picked up a four-match suspension after being dismissed in the first half at Henley last Saturday– the fourth Fylde player to receive a red card this season.
And as Fylde prepare for tomorrow’s Woodlands test against an in-form Darlington Mowden Park, who have themselves won their last two and triumphed at Fylde last season, Arnold knows his side can’t afford the handicap of playing the game a man down.
Arnold told The Gazette: “Darlington have won their last two by good margins and it’s a real challenge for us, which is why discipline will be very important.
“Our injury problems are easing but our problem is discipline. We’ve had to have stern words on that subject
“Ben has got a four-week suspension after he retaliated to a punch. We have to learn that teams will target you if they think you will hit back.
“The players are getting frustrated in games and that frustration is boiling over,but we can’t have other teams thinking they can wind us up and get our players into trouble with referees. Four red cards in 11 games is unacceptable and we can’t be so naive.”
Arnold will hope that a few home truths will have the desired effect, as was the case after the defeat three weeks ago at Blaydon, a match seesn as a possible turning point in the season.
He explained: “We have steadied the ship since the Blaydon defeat and I’m pleased with the response because some harsh words were said after that game. We went there and looked as though we expected to walk over them because they were bottom of the league, but they really put it to us.
“That game was a bit of a turning point. We talked to the forwards about being mentally weak and needing to put that right, and we’ve had the response we wanted.”
And it isn’t only the forwards who have caught the eye in the last two games. The former Rossendale winger Anthony Bingham has stepped into the side and made a big impression, scoring his maiden first-team try at Henley.
Arnold said: “It’s a big step up to National League rugby but Bingham has taken his chance really well. We told him that if he played well in the Second XV his chance would come and he has taken it.
“The conditions in the Cinderford game were ridiculous for a winger making his debut but he did really well. He’s good defensively too but he still has a lot to learn.”
Now his side has risen into the top eight, the challenge Arnold has laid down to his squad is to stay there.
He continued: “This club has had a massive problem with consistency for several years now. We’ll go on a good run and then lose a stupid game. We are trying to change that.
“We want to finish in the top half but beyond that I wouldn’t like to set a target.
“The club had the same coach for a number of years, so this was always going to be a difficult season getting used to a new coaching team. Overall, I’m pleased with the way we are progressing now.
“We were well beaten by Hartpury College but otherwise we’ve tended to pick up bonus points in the games we’ve lost, so we’re not far away.”
Provided they can persuade referees to keep their cards close to his chest, Fylde should soon be at full-strength as their injury problems ease.
Sam Beaumont is due to return to training and Evan Stewart is available this weekend after work commitments prevented him travelling to Henley.
He replaces the suspended Vernon in the only change to last week’s starting line-up.
There’s one change on the replacements’ bench too as Nick Gray replaces Jamie Brookes.
Gray joined Fylde from Nottingham in September and was then loaned back to his former club.
Fylde: Spragg, Brennand, Briers, S Rawlings, Bingham; Johnson, Nicholls; Birchall, Burtonwood, Lewis, G Rawlings, Robinson, Stewart, Moon, Fairbrother. Replacements: Griffiths, Mills, Gray, De La Harpe, Dorrington.