Fylde RFC hope to welcome the experienced Dave Fairbrother back into the squad at Stourbridge tomorrow after head coach Warren Spragg asked his younger players whether he needed to bring more “old heads” to the club.
Spragg was highly critical of his squad’s mental resolve after last weekend’s 41-29 home defeat by National Two North leaders Hull Ionians, questioning whether his young players were up to the demanding task confronting them.
He discussed the issue further with his squad this week, after their latest setback left Fylde in the lower half of the table ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the West Midlands.
Fylde had battled back to lead at half-time against the Ionians but then leaked four tries in the second half and Spragg told The Gazette: “Some of our attacking play was as good as we could have hoped for, but we were naive defensively and some of our decision-making was poor.
“We learned a tough lesson against a very tough team and we have spent a lot of time this week working on where we need to get better.”
Asked if the issues were as much mental as physical, the Fylde boss said: “Yes, 100 per cent. We had a good honest chat and I asked whether we are asking too much of young players.
“They have to put a lot in physically. It’s a competitive, very high-impact collision sport and you have to commit to that mentally. If you are a little off it can have big consequences.
“We made some mistakes which were down to not staying awake and not thinking about the decisions they were making.
“I asked the lads: ‘Do I have to bring some old heads in, which I don’t want to do, or do you want to stand up, be counted and start to make a name for yourself?’
“It’s very clear that our most experienced players are Alex Loney, Adam Lewis and David Fairbrother. Even with only one of those (Loney), we were going great on Saturday but then we lost him.
“(Replacement) Ben Gregory is fantastic in terms of ability and will deliver that full package in a few years. But we missed the things the older players do, the way they communicate and lead.”
It’s why the return of number eight Fairbrother, who sustained a calf muscle injury against Tynedale four weeks ago, can’t come a moment too soon
Spragg added: “We hope to have Fairy back this weekend and his gung-ho leadership and ‘follow me’ attitude will be a big boost for us.”
He could be followed by another of the club’s big guns in captain Lewis as the coach explained: “Adam sees a specialist with his knee this week and will hopefully be back for the South Leicester game in a fortnight.
“The injuries we picked up against Hull Ionians were nothing too bad, though Alex’s knee will probably keep him out this weekend.
“Adam Joyner took a bang to his shoulder. We’ve had a chat with him about understanding his body but he will bounce back and should be up for selection this weekend.
“We feared there was a leg break for Jacob Conner (the back-rower stretchered off on his debut) but that isn’t the case. There is some ligament and soft tissue damage but it’s not too bad and hopefully he will be back in two or three weeks.”