AFC Fylde star James Hardy is hoping to make a welcome return to the Coasters squad this afternoon.

The young midfielder has been in fantastic form for the Coasters this season, but missed the festive double-header against Chorley with a groin strain.

However, Hardy returned to training on Thursday and is raring to go ahead of today’s clash against FC United of Manchester.  

“The injury is getting better now. For about a week it wasn’t getting much better but in the last, I’d say five to seven days, it’s improved a lot.

“I was back in training on Thursday and hopefully I’ll be involved on Saturday, whether that means I’m starting or on the bench. That’s down to the manager of course, but hopefully I’ll be available for selection.

“The injury was just a little groin strain really. It was probably a bit more than a grade one but it’s healing now so it should be okay.”

The Coasters maintained their six-point lead at the top of the National League North table following a well-deserved 3-1 victory away at local rivals Chorley on New Year’s Day and Hardy was impressed with the performance of his teammates.

“It was a massive win especially after the Boxing Day defeat. We needed to bounce back. When people expect us to have a bad patch, we come back with a win and if we carry on like that, we’ve got a good chance of going up this season.

“With Chorley being one of our title rivals and with it being a derby too, it was a massive three points.

“Their goal was a wonder strike and when that goes in, you think it may not be our day. To be fair to the lads, they showed a lot of courage to get back into the game.

“The pitch wasn’t the best so we had to dig in but I think we deserved to win. I think that we were the better side.

“Dom (Collins) was class on Sunday. He won everything and one of his best attributes probably is heading the ball so that game suited him down to the ground. He’d been waiting for his chance so he deserved every bit of credit that he got and he took his goal really well.”

As well as keeping the trailing pack at bay, the victory extended their advantage over Chorley to nine points, but Hardy believes that the Coasters have to concentrate on themselves.

“I think it was important because if we had lost that game, we would have been under a bit of pressure. There would have been fewer points between us and Chorley and Kidderminster won as well.

“However, I think that it is probably best that we just concentrate on ourselves. If we keep winning, then the gap will keep increasing and then hopefully it will become too big for anyone to make up.”

The Coasters are set for the second biggest attendance of the season at Mill Farm this afternoon after selling over 2,000 tickets in advance and Hardy is confident of another positive result.

“It should be a good game. Everyone knows that their fans are decent so atmosphere wise, it will be good and they are a decent side. But I think that on our day, if we play well, we’re definitely capable of beating them.

“I can’t wait for the game. From a team perspective, we obviously want to win the league and keep playing well.

“It would be my first real achievement and from a personal point of view, I just want to keep playing well and to keep scoring.

“My aim is to get into double figures so as long as I keep performing, that should happen quite soon. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season – it will be a really good experience and hopefully we will end it by winning the league.”