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Fylde RFC’s players pass a test of character as Sheffield Tigers lie in wait

Fylde host Sheffield Tigers looking for a fourth win of the season already
Fylde host Sheffield Tigers looking for a fourth win of the season already
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Head coach Warren Spragg has congratulated his Fylde RFC players on achieving their first away victory for 10 months despite the fates appearing to conspire against them.

Ahead of last weekend’s 41-31 victory at Leicester Lions, Fylde lost their most experienced player to injury and lost their team coach.

Spragg explained: “We discovered at 10pm on Friday that we didn’t have a bus to take us to Leicester but the lads took it in their stride.

“They sorted out car travel themselves. It could have been used as an easy excuse but everyone knuckled down and now the bus is sorted for the rest of the season.”

The bad luck didn’t end there as centre Chris Briers was forced to withdraw with a muscle strain and Fylde then lost captain Adam Lewis to a knee injury sustained in the act of scoring the early opening try.

Their ill-fortune provided debut opportunities for Adam Lanigan and Matt Ascroft, who seized them with both hands.

A plan to switch full-back Tom Carleton to scrum-half was scrapped in favour of a gamble on Lanigan that paid off handsomely.

Spragg explained: “Adam came from nowhere. He is an ex-colt who came back after graduation and trained with us pre-season in the hope of being in the second team.

“We thought Chris would be OK but he wasn’t quite ready. We had named Tom at scrum-half, but when we lost Chris we thought there would be too much disruption by moving Tom from full-back.

“Had Connor Wilkinson gone to full-back we’d have had too many players out of position, so Adam Lanigan came in and did everything we asked of him.

“Matt Ashcroft stepped in for the captain, who has played around 200 first-team games, and played really well.

“Adam Lewis smashed his knee but tried to play on. It’s badly bruised and he has visited hospital a couple of times but hopefully he will be OK for the weekend. Chris has trained this week and hopefully will be OK for Saturday too.”

Should Briers return, Fylde may revert to plan A and switch Carleton to half-back for the next two games, after which Cam Crampton will hopefully be ready to return after an ankle injury.

Fylde could also welcome back Nick Ashcroft and Ben Vernon for Saturday’s Woodlands clash against a Sheffield Tigers side Spragg believes are better than their up-and-down early form (two wins, two defeats) would suggest.

“Sheffield are a top-six team with top-quality players, some of the best in the league,” the coach added.

“Their backs are especially dangerous and we will have to be on top of our game.

“We play the top teams in the league over the next couple of months and these are the games we have to win.”

A positive start to the season has boosted Fylde’s hopes of doing so and a feelgood factor is a welcome change for Spragg.

“We have already equalled our win total for the whole of last season (three), so I congratulated the players in training,” he said.

“Winning at home and away is something we haven’t done enough of, and we have to keep getting better and trusting each other to keep that winning habit.”

The only reminder of last season so far has been Fylde’s ill-discipline.

The sinbinning of Tom Burtonwood and David Fairbrother at Leicester reduced the visitors to 13 for a spell and threatened their lead.

The coach warned: “It’s about taking individual responsibility.

“Both yellows were avoidable. They came down to rushes of blood and poor decision-making. We have spoken to them about it and it is something to improve on.

“We’ve had three good wins, and if the discipline had been right against Preston it could have been four, though they were good on the day.”