James Rowe: First AFC Fylde target achieved and two to go

Alex Whitmore heads clear for Fylde against Chester  Picture: STEVE McLELLANAlex Whitmore heads clear for Fylde against Chester  Picture: STEVE McLELLAN
Alex Whitmore heads clear for Fylde against Chester Picture: STEVE McLELLAN
James Rowe has achieved his first objective for this season as AFC Fylde manager … but there are two remaining.
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Twenty points from his first nine games in charge have seen the Coasters secure a place in the National League North play-offs with four games to play, starting with tomorrow's away clash with Boston United.

A battling draw with 10 men at Southport last Friday was followed by a Monday's 3-1 home win over Chester as Fylde's happy Easter left them with a six-point cushion in third place.

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Rowe told The Gazette: “The first objective was to secure our play-off place because the form wasn't great and we've turned it around.

“Objective two is to secure third position and objective three is promotion. So far we've achieved one out of three, so we want to keep the momentum going into the play-offs.

“There is a balance to be struck, though, because we have players coming back who need minutes.

They include defenders Luke Burke and Alex Whitmore, who both made successful comebacks from injury over Easter and coming through unscathed.

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Rowe added: “Luke ended up playing almost 70 minutes at Southport because we were down to 10 men, then Alex played the full game on Monday.”

“The physio was in my ear with about 20 to go wanting him to come off, but I couldn't bring him off because the opposition came into it a little bit. The next goal was crucial, so it was important Alex stayed on.”

Fylde's next three games are all against teams in play-off contention – Boston have won their last three games – which is just what Rowe wants to keep his players on their toes.

“I'd rather it was this way because you want to pit your wits against the better teams,” he says. “That keeps you sharp and gives you a taste of what you might come up against in the play-offs.”

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Rowe says there is still improvement in his side, particularly in terms of protecting possession, but overall he is pleased with their progress.

“We did well for 65-70 minutes against Chester and then tailed off but that can happen when you are playing two games in such quick succession. Southport was about grinding out a result with 10 men.

“When it comes to the play-offs the small details matter, so if you are not getting the first contact in the penalty area, then make sure you get the second.

“But overall our pitch coverage, our reaction from attack to defence, the way we pressed and our ball movement was a whole lot better.”

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Fylde played more than half the game at Haig Avenue a man short after Will Hatfield was sent off for kicking out at Tyler Walton in an off-the-ball incident.

The league's rules enabled the midfielder to face Chester three days later but he now faces suspension.

But Rowe admitted: “We're still not sure how long Will is suspended for. Yes, I think it was a sending-off but we haven't had confirmation on how many games. I'm still getting used to a competition in which a suspension doesn't kick in for seven days.”

Club captain Whitmore was delighted to be back after two-and-a-half-months and said: “We’re at the real business end of the season now and it’s a massive three points at this stage.

"They picked up a bit after our third goal and we had to dig in and defend, and we showed we're capable of doing that side, so it was a good game for us in both boxes.”