Fylde RFC head coach Warren Spragg insists it’s way too early to talk of a two-horse race for the National Two North title, especially with potential ‘banana skin’ fixtures against struggling Luctonians and Hull on the next two Saturdays.
Last weekend’s 33-7 Woodlands win over Loughborough Students maintained Fylde’s one-point advantage over Caldy and the leaders are nine clear of Sedgley Park in third.
But, with two-thirds of the season to play, Spragg says his side cannot afford to lose focus against their second-bottom Herefordshire hosts tomorrow.
The Fylde boss told The Gazette: “There are still 20 games to play in a long season, and if we get carried away, we could make a mistake against Luctonians or Hull.
“Then our final four games of the year are tough, including Sedgley Park at home and Otley and Preston away.”
Luctonians haven’t won since the opening day, while winless bottom club Scunthorpe conceded 68 points at home to Caldy last weekend, and Spragg admits it can be difficult for promoted clubs to find their feet at National League level.
“And with Hull we have the three promoted clubs at the bottom,” he added, “though Preston Grasshoppers came up last year and have been competitive.
“A lot depends on budgets, but if you get on a run of losing games that can be difficult to get out of. But Luctonians have had a lot of close games (only twice has their losing margin reached double figures).”
Yet Fylde head south in fine form, having kept Loughborough scoreless for virtually 70 minutes and enjoyed the luxury of experimenting with players in different positions – Tom Carleton had a spell at scrum-half, while Adam Lanigan moved to full-back.
Spragg explained: “It was a case of being smart. Those aren’t changes we will look at tactically for the long-term but it was worthwhile in case changes are enforced.
“Adam has stepped up really well at scrum-half with Cam Crampton being injured and has played every game. Full-back isn’t his favourite position but it is about having players who can adapt.”
Joe Carpenter, a dual-registered Sale Sharks player, caught the eye at full-back against the Students with his attacking skills and footwork.
Spragg said: “Players who excite the supporters give everyone a more enjoyable afternoon, and Joe clearly fits into the way we want to play. From our point of view, hopefully he will stay with us for a while but that depends on Sale.”
Carpenter played his part in an exhilarating opening against Loughborough which delighted the coach.
Spragg added: “In the first 15 minutes our attack was outstanding. We shocked them, we kicked well and kept the pressure on. Loughborough were really struggling to respond.
“They are a very organised and skilful side but we put our bodies on the line to stop them scoring from open play – their only try was off the back of a lineout.”
Matt Aschcroft could be in line for a starting shirt at Luctonians as Spragg considers promoting players from the replacements’ bench for this game.
Winger Lex Botha remains a doubt with an ankle problem, though Fylde have no fresh injury concerns.