Coasters feel the wind of change

James Hardy may need a fitness test for a leg muscle problem
James Hardy may need a fitness test for a leg muscle problem

It will be a Lancashire derby with a big difference – in more ways than one – when AFC Fylde clash at home to Chorley in Vanarama National League North on Boxing Day.

For a start, it is being widely predicted that the match will break all previous attendance records at Mill Farm.

And it will be the first time that, in meetings between the clubs over the years, that AFC Fylde supporters will have outnumbered the opposition fans.

Not that Dave Challinor, the AFC Fylde manager, will be shouting much; he is seeing a specialist after Christmas to find the reason behind his croaky voice that has been troubling him for weeks.

He said: “I suppose losing your voice is one of the hazards of the job when you are a football manager.”

The AFC Fylde fans have had plenty to voice their approval as the Coasters go into the match seven points clear of their nearest pursuers, Kidderminster Harrers, and nine clear of Chorley.

It will be business as usual in the build-up to the Boxing Day cracker, with the Fylde squad training today and having Christmas Day off, though the players will have to go easy on the festivities with a match on December 26.

Challinor said: “It is a small sacrifice for the players to pay because the rewards can be big at the end of the season.”

Not that positive results on Boxing Day or in the return fixture at Victory Park will settle anything, as the Fylde boss knows only too well.

He said: “We did the double over Barrow two seasons ago at this time of year, but they were promoted and we missed out.

“If you had told me at the start of the year that we would have won 21 games and only lost one, I would have taken that, but at the same time I might have expected that we would have been further ahead.

“The crowds we have been getting at our new ground have exceeded expectations and normally in matches like this against Chorley they would have more of a following than we had, but that won’t happen on Monday.”

Challinor is pleased with the club’s progress, but he says that Fylde need to be in it for the long haul if they are to attain their target of being elevated to the top grade of non-league football next season.

He said: “There is still a long way to go until the end of the season and a lot can happen between now and then.

“It is not easy to set targets, but we reckon that we will need to pick up another 40 points to what we already have.

“That equates to winning around 13 games, so there is a lot to do, but I would rather be in this position than anywhere else and every other clubs in the division would like to be in our position.”

Fylde must check on James Hardy, who has a muscle problem at the top of his leg.