AFC Fylde captain Brad Barnes is hoping to shrug off a niggling neck injury in time to lead his side to FA Cup success.
The Coasters take on Barrow AFC in the final FA Cup qualifying match at Kellamergh Park this afternoon with a place in the first round proper up for grabs.
Barnes has missed the last two matches after picking up the injury ahead of the 9-0 victory over Coleshill Town in the last round, but is keen to return to action for Dave Challinor’s league leaders.
“I had been feeling my neck and I headed a ball and it just seized up,” said Barnes. “It was like I had whiplash. I had to sit out the game because unfortunately I couldn’t play through it.
“It felt ok last week and I trained on Tuesday and Thursday, but again as soon as I headed the ball, it seized up again. It wasn’t worth trying to start the game then having to come off after 10 minutes. Especially when I’ve been playing centre-back recently and you’re heading the ball all game.
“I’ve been to see a specialist this week to find out a bit more, but I’m fairly optimistic.”
The Coasters have reached the FA Cup first round twice in the last three years, coming up against Football League sides Accrington Stanley and Plymouth.
However, Barnes insists he perhaps has more reason than most for wanting to progress.
“I guess I’m extra keen to beat Barrow and get through because I was actually suspended for both the Accrington and Plymouth games!
“So that is definitely an added incentive for me to reach the first round this time around and actually get to play hopefully!
“We want to progress in the cup as far as we possibly can. Win this game and we are in the first round proper. And just because you reach that stage, doesn’t mean you have to stop there. There’s no reason you can’t get to the second or third round and then you’re talking Premier League clubs.
“You’ve seen it happen before so it is possible. We could be at that stage for the third time in four years and it gives the club the recognition it deserves, especially if we could get ourselves on TV.
“We beat Barrow twice last year so we certainly know how to do it! Obviously they ended up winning promotion, so there is a little bit of rivalry there, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t beat them again.
“The league is still the main priority. The club want to progress and we need to go up to do that. We should have probably gone up last year, but we are doing our best to make sure it happens this season.
It’s always nice to go on a decent cup run too though. We are going into the game as league leaders so that will fill us with confidence. There’s no reason cup and league success can’t run side by side.”