It’s been a hectic few weeks for AFC Fylde – there’s been some positive news surrounding the Mill Farm development, an unbeaten run that doesn’t look like stopping any time soon, and eventful weekend in Kings Lynn culminating in a fantastic draw in the FA Cup First Round Proper on Monday. First Team boss, Dave Challinor, rounds up what the last few weeks has been like in his own words.
He summarised it all by saying: “It’s been a great few weeks for everyone associated with the football club. More positive news on the scheduling of the new facility at Mill Farm, progression into the FA Cup First Round proper for the second time in three seasons, our league run extended to nine wins on the bounce and a new arrival for one of the lads”.
The attention rightly turned to an important trip down to Norfolk last weekend and Challinor added: “We travelled to Kings Lynn for our Saturday afternoon kick-off in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round early Friday afternoon, starting with the first pick up at the Kingfisher Tavern as normal. This was the start of, shall we say, an eventful weekend.
“It eventually took us six and a half hours to get across to Kings Lynn as a result of Friday motorway traffic but to be able to travel the evening before makes a huge difference.”
Decent pre-match preparation is always the key for Challinor and he insists on the lads getting a good night’s sleep before any game, particularly if they’ve travelled down the night before.
But for one Fylde favourite this wasn’t to be. “To then awake to the news that Adam Sumner’s partner Becky had gone into labour in the early hours of the morning, four weeks prior to her due date was a bit of a shock.” After some quick talking and decision making between Challinor, Colin Woodthorpe and Adam early in the morning Adam decided to stay in Kings Lynn with the squad for the game and hope to be back in time that evening for the birth of his first child.
However, Challinor added: “It was even more of a shock when the fantastic news came at 11.09 that Becky had given birth to a little baby boy, Flynn. Mum and baby are continuing to do well and we are all delighted for them both.
The excitement was already building ahead of what was the biggest game of the season so fast for The Coasters. Challinor reflected on an incredible cup tie by saying: “This tie you could say was the epitome of the FA Cup in the fact it had everything – goals, incidents, sendings off and a thrilling end – all played in front of over 1,400 people who will have gone away, even though the majority disappointed, but entertained none the less.
“To win the game 4-3 and put ourselves in Monday evenings draw was fantastic. Going in 1-0 down at half time I was disappointed but happy overall with our performance. We had played well in my eyes, quietened the crowd and had more than a few half chances. The only disappointments we had were that we hadn’t tested the keeper enough and we conceded a really poor goal from our perspective.”
Defence has been the key for Fylde this season but Challinor was disappointed with the goals conceded on Saturday: “We’ve been fantastic defensively this season but the three goals we conceded were avoidable to say the least but they were honest mistakes and mistakes we know we have to cut out. We are buoyed by the fact we can review and analyse them with a victory in the bag and not costing us our place in the competition.”
Challinor denies giving his players the hairdryer treatment at half time but whatever he said to them in that dressing room clearly had an effect. “The reaction from half time was spectacular and to score three goals in a ten minute spell at the start of the half really should have sealed the tie.
“Credit to Kings Lynn, they kept going and at 1-3 and 2-4 down respectively got a goal to get themselves back in the game and give them a chance. We held out aside from one heart stopping moment in the ninety sixth minute when a looping header cleared our crossbar by inches.”
The final whistle was greeted with elation by the Fylde players, officials and fans that had made the trip or were following on social media but there will unfortunately be disappointment for one player. “Brad Barnes was sent off in injury time for an innocuous challenge that will result in him missing the First Round tie.
“There were far worse tackles went unpunished by the referee after five seconds and approximately one minute, only due to the fact they were committed so early in the game so as this offence took place in injury time, with the home team pressing for an equaliser having had a man sent off themselves for violent conduct I suppose the decision was inevitable. Either way, it left a sour taste to end a fantastic day.”
And thus began the journey home. Challinor summarised the six hour trip as ‘eventful’ with plenty of socialising, beer drunk and laughter. “The trip was probably epitomised by our new loan signing from Fleetwood Town, Jamie Allen taking to the microphone, or in this instance a bottle of water, to rap his rendition of Loyal. This was following by our match analysts Marcus and Ian and media man Jack getting up and giving their X-Factor auditions.”
The result meant The Coasters were into the hat for Monday night’s live FA Cup draw. “Everyone will have had opinions on the draw they wanted. It really is in the lap of the gods and on this occasion, our ball, number 50 was drawn out giving us an away game at Plymouth.”
My first thoughts were that it’s a long way to go but we should be used to it having travelled to Kings Lynn last week, Boston this week and now Plymouth next weekend.
Challinor might not have fond memories of Home Park as a player, saying it was the only place where he was ever sent off in his career but he added: “It’s a fantastic ground to go and play at, a big club and hopefully a big crowd to play in front of. It’s a great opportunity for my lads to go and show a lot of people that they are as capable as I think they are. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose from the tie and we couldn’t go into it in any better state of mind. We are on a great run and looking forward to it.”
Before that though there is still a very important league game away to Boston United this weekend. Challinor will have brought his player back down to earth in training this week and knows his players will be full focused on the job at hand on Saturday afternoon. “Boston will be another tough away trip against a former Football League club but we will be totally prepared and ready to put in a performance that hopefully sees us travelling home with a positive result.”
Not many will disagree that it’s been a few eventful days in the life of The Coasters!