Hardy battle-hardened for Fylde
Midfielder James Hardy will have to battle through the pain barrier in the cause of AFC Fylde's play-off ambitions.
The former Manchester City player suffered a broken nose during their 1-0 victory over Harrogate Town in the first leg of the Vanarama National League North play-off semi-final.
And when the two sides renew rivalry at Kellamergh Park on Sunday, Hardy may well have to wear a protective mask to protect the injury.
Coasters’ manager Dave Challinor explained: “It happened in the first minute at Harrogate.
“He put his head in to block the ball and got a kick in the face.
“James carried on for the rest of the match, though we had to take him towards the end as he was starting to tire a bit.
“We will have to see how he is in training, but it could be that James will need to wear a mask on Sunday.
“It’s not as if it is anything new to us, we have masks already.
“I think that is the fourth broken nose we have had over the season.”
Hardy will not want to miss a match, in which Fylde have a valuable one-goal advantage thanks to Danny Rowe’s strike on Wednesday night which separated the two sides.
Challinor was happy to settle for a one-goal win, though he contended it could have been more had it not been for the heroics of the Harrogate’s Peter Crook, the England C squad goalkeeper.
He said: “The Harrogate goalkeeper made some outstanding saves and, but for him, we could have scored more and – on another day – it could have been more comfortable.
“But I would have settled for a 1-0 win if I had been offered it before the match.
“It could even have been 1-1 because Harrogate hit the post near the end.”
The stakes could hardly be higher for the outright winners, who face the victors of the tie between North Ferriby United and Boston United in a one-off match for the right to claim a place in the fifth tier of English football along with Vanarama National North champions Solihull Moors.
Challinor thinks that the Fylde players’ experience of key games could be important at Warton on Sunday.
He said: “We played at Millwall in the FA Cup and we have played in front of big crowds at Stockport, FC United and Boston; these are the type of game players want to be involved in.
“We have put ourselves in a good position, but the job is only half done.
“We couldn’t have asked more of the players than they have done; we need to carry on doing the same work amd preparation that we have done throughout the season and keep the same belief that has taken us so far.”
Boston go into the second leg against North Ferriby with a 2-0 advantage.