Nelson set to build on firm foundations

Coach Mark Nelson

Coach Mark Nelson

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Coach Mark Nelson is confident Fylde RFC will have few problems retaining players and attracting new ones after establishing themselves in National One.

Nelson has also set himself a goal to achieve four-figure attendances for every home game of 2013-14.

The Woodlands club may have lost their last two games but they had already secured sixth place in a highly competitive league.

Nelson told The Gazette: “The second season is always difficult but we have stabilised in this league and our next task is to move forward.

“It’s a great credit to all the players and management that we’ve all stuck together, battled through and come through the season under budget.

“I’ll think we’ll nail most of the players down for next season and we’re looking for new blood. I think we are an attractive club and players will want to come here to develop their careers.”

Nelson is aware that making the club more attractive to investors and supporters is also key to him realising his goals.

He added: “We need more sponsorship and a target of mine is to put 200-300 on the gates every Saturday. We have the product to do that.”

The first-half performance at Macclesfield on Saturday may not have wooed too many fans – Fylde trailed 24-0 at the break – but they battled back in the second half only to be edged out 29-28.

Nelson said: “I wasn’t too despondent at half-time. Macclesfield threw the kitchen sink at us in the first half and we only conceded two tries. They exploited our mistakes and I thought that if we could stop making them in the second half we would have good chance of coming back.

“They defended increasingly desperately, befitting a team facing relegation. They were difficult to break down but we scored four tries and would have taken the game had a last-minute drop goal attempt gone over.

“The spirit was very encouraging as we had young players on debut in Michael Simmons and Oli Trippier, alongside a veteran in Adam Jackson who stepped into the breach because of injury for his first start since 2005. They all worked very hard and I was delighted with their efforts.”

Nelson fielded the strongest side available to him, making a nonsense of any suggestions that senior Fylde players would be redirected to Lancashire’s opening County Championship game in Durham on the same afternoon.

Nelson, who also coaches the Lancashire side, said: “There were dark rumours about us not wanting to play a full-strength side. I felt affronted but you take it with a pinch of salt.

“We maintained the integrity of the league, and I’ll stand no comments about Fylde not doing everything possible to do so, even under severe pressure. We’ve had a really tough week with injuries and had to name three backs on the bench.”

In the absence of the Fylde players, Lancashire stood tall to beat Durham 40-29 at Hartlepool, giving Nelson plenty of food for thought as he selects a side for Saturday’s second group game, the Roses clash at Fylde.

Nelson kept in touch with events in the North East on Saturday and said: “It was a fantastic performance against a Durham side with a substantial group from Blaydon, the third-placed club in National One.

“There were only a handful of established senior county players. We included lads from Eccles, Vale of Lune, Waterloo and Liverpool St Helens, who have not regularly had players in the county squad recently. That underlined the strength in depth there is out there.

“There was a really good feeling among the team, which is largely due to the passion for Lancashire rugby that is generated by our manager Steve Rigby, Martin Scott and John Greenwood.”

Nelson will select his side to face Yorkshire today, having checked on injuries from yesterday’s Lancashire Cup final between Preston Grasshoppers and Sedgley Park.

He added: “A few Fylde players will come into the equation but it will be another tough one. I expect Wharfedale (who still have a final league game to play), will release players for Yorkshire.” Saturday’s match is a 3pm kick-off.

And a final word on Fylde’s campaign: “ Given we were behind the eight-ball from the start with Gaz Rawlings being unavailable and were around the bottom end throughout September and October, we have pulled it round to finish sixth. We blooded a lot of new players and can now say we have established ourselves in this league.”