AFC Fylde boss Jim Bentley looks forward to return to action at Leamington amid "desperate" search for a striker

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AFC Fylde are hopeful of getting their 2022 campaign off to a belated start at Leamington this weekend after a Covid outbreak.
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AFC Fylde sign experienced midfielder Danny Whitehead

The Coasters were forced to close their training ground last week and have called off both games since the turn of the year – at Chorley and at home to York City – due to a player shortage.

But the players have returned to training this week, including latest signing Danny Whitehead, with a view to returning to action in Warwickshire on Saturday.

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A new striker is top of Jim Bentley's priority listA new striker is top of Jim Bentley's priority list
A new striker is top of Jim Bentley's priority list

Fylde have slipped to fourth in National League North, having not played since December 28, and leaders Brackley Town moved nine points clear of the Coasters (who have two games in hand) with Tuesday's 1-0 win over Kettering.

Fylde manager Jim Bentley, who tested positive for Covid himself but looks forward to returning to work on Thursday, told The Gazette: “The players are back and the Leamington game should be fine.

“The players who tested positive came back later than the others and are fulfilling their 'return-to-play' protocols.

“It will be our first game after a 17-day break and we didn't train together at all last week, but we could have one or two back from injury.”

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Midfielder Whitehead is raring to go, having agreed an 18-month Coasters deal on Tuesday after agreeing his early release by Port Vale last week.

The 28-year-old last played at the start of December on loan with National League club Altrincham.

The Mancunian has played in League Two for five clubs and aims to help Fylde climb the pyramid.

Whitehead told the club website: “I'm absolutely delighted it’s all happened. I spoke to the gaffer last week. He told me about the ways he likes to work and the direction he wants to go in, and straight away I thought that suited me perfectly.

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“The facilities are unbelievable. They are a club that should be much higher and I want to help the club to get back where they should be.

“I’ve not played for a while but I want to play some games, work hard and get the promotion we are looking for.

“My experience can help players but there’s a vast amount of experience in the team and as I think as a team we can all help each other. I’m sure all the lads are eager to get going again and get a win.”

Boss Bentley's top target is a new striker but he is delighted to welcome Whitehead aboard.

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He told The Gazette: “Danny is really good footballer and is a good age to keep on improving. He has been in successful sides and will improve our squad.

“We have been struggling with bodies. We're trying to improve all areas and are desperate for a centre-forward.

“That's the main priority and a lot of work is going on behind the scenes, but if we can improve other areas as well we will.”

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