Fylde RFC head coach looks forward to facing the Lions

Fylde's Ben Vernon rises highest
Fylde's Ben Vernon rises highest

Head coach Warren Spragg is relishing tomorrow’s battle between “two of the league’s form teams” as the Woodlands stages its first National Two North clash of 2019 between Fylde and Leicester Lions.

Spragg’s third-placed side started the year with a 31-28 win at Macclesfield which stretched their unbeaten run to eight games.

Although the Lions remain in the lower half of the table, they are on a three-match winning run which includes the scalps of Hull Ionians and Chester.

Leicester Lions are certainly much-improved since Fylde won 41-31 at their Westleigh Park ground in September and Spragg said: “The win over Chester last weekend was particularly impressive. They are the only team to keep Hull scoreless and they also beat South Leicester, who have been going well.

“So they are three good wins for a club who have named a consistent squad and have worked hard to do things right. We need to make sure we get our own stuff together and are at the top of our game.”

That defeat for Chester left Fylde just three points behind the second-placed club and nine behind pacesetters Hull.

After Fylde’s mixed start, Spragg set a target to close the gap on the leaders by the turn of the year and this has been achieved – but it doesn’t mean the coach’s approach will now change.

He added: “If we maintain our form, and win our games at Hull and at home to Chester, then we would be in a good position for the top two but you have to take it week by week.

“If we lose tomorrow and at Sheffield next week we could be down in sixth, so you have to focus on the short term and on being happy with where you are, which we are at the moment.”

He maintains further improvement is vital after Fylde needed a late Greg Smith penalty to secure maximum points at Macc, where Spragg was critical of the display.

He said: “You’d definitely prefer to play badly and win than not to win at all, so five more points are great but we have to get better if we want to fulfil our aspirations.

“Their first try came from us losing a lineout, then giving away a series of penalties and picking up a yellow card. There were seven mistakes on the bounce without anyone righting a wrong.”

However, his charges kept their discipline when it mattered in the dying moments, after the hosts had pulled level with a late try, and Spragg believes hard work earlier in the campaign paid off.

He explained: “It was a game which could have got away from us emotionally. Earlier in the season we put a lot of effort into the players’ self-belief and collective belief to help us to claw back games and win the close ones.

“It helped us to get into a better place to deal with stressful situations but we are still a long way from where I want us to be.”

Fylde’s list of injured forwards increased when Elliot Horner tweaked a hamstring in training on Tuesday,though Spragg can call on dual-registered reinforcements from Sale Sharks.

He said: “It looks a minor injury but it will keep Elliot out this weekend. We have three props injured but we have Cal Ford and Bevan Rodd to come in.”

Fylde lost Ben Vernon at half-time with a calf strain at Macclesfield, while a big decision is imminent over fellow back-rower Dave Fairbrother’s shoulder problem.

“He will see a specialist on Monday to see whether he needs surgery,” said Spragg.

“He has been doing rehab in case he doesn’t go down the surgery route but we’ll find out more on Monday.”