Arnold set for a fond farewell to Fylde

Paul Arnold makes his final appearance at the Woodlands tomorrow

Paul Arnold makes his final appearance at the Woodlands tomorrow

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Departing head coach Paul Arnold is, after all, planning to make an emotional farewell appearance at the Woodlands tomorrow, when Fylde bid for a victory over Loughborough Students which would secure their National League One status for next season.

Arnold, who will leave the club at the end of the season, revealed this week that he would not select himself for Fylde’s vital final home match of the season and would “negotiate from the sidelines”.

However, an injury to lock Matt Rogerson resulted in a rethink and Arnold has named himself in the starting line-up on the proviso a niggling back injury was not aggravated in training last night.

Five straight defeats meant Fylde went into the Easter break still sweating on survival with two games of the season remaining.

And although they still have an eight-point cushion over the bottom two, Fylde could still be overhauled by Hull Ionians and Blaydon if they win neither of their remaining games.

Fylde complete the season with a testing trip to fourth-placed Birmingham Moseley next weekend and so Arnold is determined to end all doubts at Ansdell tomorrow.

Rogerson apart, Fylde’s are able to call on their dual-registered players from Sale Sharks, while back-rower Dave Fairbrother is available after his Navy commitments.

Arnold said: “We have players back and it will be one of the strongest teams we have fielded this season. We want to put any doubts to bed and finish the home season on a high.”

It is over five weeks since Arnold revealed he would be leaving after two seasons as player-coach, and with hindsight he wonders whether the announcement should have been delayed.

“Maybe we should have waited because the players’ foot has just come off the gas,” he told The Gazette.

“Now we are in a situation where there is still a possibility of going down, so we have to make sure we get the job done this weekend.”

Arnold’s position was promptly advertised and The Gazette understands a shortlist of over 20 applicants was drawn up.

The club hopes to confirm an appointment as soon as possible after tomorrow’s game.

Arnold’s fellow forward Ewan Stewart will also be playing his final home match for Fylde tomorrow against the club he used to captain.

Loughborough are secure in 10th place and have won five of their nine league meetings with Fylde.

The Students are the third-highest scorers in National One, averaging 30 points per match, but have lost eight of their last nine games.

Their top tryscorer is centre Gair Currie with 15, though top pointscorer, Josh Sharp (160), has been out injured since mid-season.

Fylde team: Carleton, Armstrong, Briers, Wilkinson, Brennand, Smith, Nicholls; Pope, Loney, Lewis, Gray, Arnold, Turley, Stewart, Fairbrother; replacements: Griffiths, Burtonwood, Lamprey, Dever, Bingham.