Bamber Bridge can draw great confidence from their performance against AFC Fylde on Monday night despite being denied a place in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy final.
That is the view of Brig assistant manager Neil Reynolds, who watched his side undeservedly bow out of the competition at the semi-final stage against a team who are riding high in the division above.
The Coasters, who won 2-0 at the County Ground, in Leyland, will now go forward to the final at Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium next month, where they will meet Chorley.
Brig, who currently lie one point outside the play-off places in the NPL First Division with a game in hand, more than matched their higher-league opponents but lost out as Fylde showed a more clinical touch in front of goal.
“We played really well,” said Reynolds. “We were the better team on the night.
“I don’t think their manager Dave Challinor would disagree with that. But it was the same old story – we failed to take our chances.
“There were so many positives in terms of the performance.
“We matched, if not bettered, one of the best sides in the NPL Premier Division.
“I don’t think it was a case of we raised our game because it was Fylde – that performance was very much as we are. That is how we have been playing all season.
“We were absolutely devastated at the final whistle.
“It was 1-0 right up until the final minute – they had a breakaway and got the penalty.
“But their keeper made two exceptional saves to stop us from scoring.
“We missed from two yards out and Ally Waddecar put the ball just wide of the post when through one-on-one. We hit the bar. We’ve missed out on a cup final but we said afterwards that if we repeat that level of performance, then there is no reason why we won’t be in the top five at the end of the season.”
Matty Blinkhorn put Fylde ahead in the first half with an opportunistic piece of finishing and Reynolds feels that is the missing ingredient for Brig at the moment.
Apart from the 5-1 rout against Padiham, the men from Irongate have failed to score in four of the last five games.
They have lost by a single goal to Farsley twice and title favourites Curzon Ashton
“It would be a concern if we weren’t making the chances,” Reynolds.
“We must be making four or five clear-cut chances per game whether that is against Fylde, Farsley or Curzon.
“We are not putting pressure on the lads because I believe it will come in front of goal.
“But I would be lying if I said we weren’t on the lookout for another centre-forward – a natural goalscorer.
“I know they are pretty hard to come by but if we had a wish list then right at the top would be a 20-goal-a-season striker.”
Tomorrow, Brig travel to Kendal Town knowing a win could propel them back into the play-off places.
The top four appear to be breaking away, leaving Brig fighting it out with Ramsbottom United and Lancaster City for fifth place.
Reynolds said: “At this minute it looks like a three-way fight for the last play-off spot, although that’s not to say a team below us couldn’t go on a great run and put themselves in the picture.”
Zach Clarke will return to the squad tomorrow, while George Bowyer, Lennie Reid, Andy Bell and Greg Johnstone are edging closer to full fitness.
l Darren Peacock believes Simon Wills’ imminent departure from Lancaster City will allow another star to emerge as they face Burscough away tomorrow.
Wills was in fine form before an injury and was expected to return to first-team action.
But in an unexpected twist he is turning his back on English football and emigrating to Australia.
Wills has ben offered a semi-professional contract Down Under and Dolly Blues manager Peacock believes he will be a big loss as the fight for the play-offs hots up.
He said: “Simon has got a job offer and an opportunity to play semi-pro at a similar level to us.
“He was really coming into his own before the injury.
“He goes with our best wishes and the door will always be open for him to come back.
“But it gives a chance for someone else to step in.”
Lancaster are seventh in the NPL First Division North and are battling Bamber Bridge and Ramsbottom to secure a play-off spot.
And Peacock is eager to get his side back in action at Victoria Park after an enforced lay-off thanks to the stormy weather.
He said: “It’s really frustrating – it’s just stop-start at the moment. We can’t get any momentum or rhythm.
“The only real bonus was that every game in the division was called off.”
When Burscough travelled to Giant Axe back in August they drew 1-1 with Peacock’s men and the manager is expecting a tough test in tricky conditions at Burscough.
He said: “I’ve heard their pitch isn’t the best. It’s a bit hit and miss at the moment.
“But if it’s on we’ll go there to win the game.
“With our position in the league at the moment, every result is vital.
“We’re full of confidence, despite the last two games that survived the wet weather not going so well. I have confidence in the players.”
Peacock called on his side to be more clinical after Ramsbottom beat them 3-1 in City’s last league match.
He said: “I thought the scoreline flattered them but we need to take our chances.”
Peacock has been keeping his players active and was impressed with their performance in a friendly against Slyne last Saturday.
The game was organised after the Dolly Blues’ league match against Darlington 1883 was cancelled.
Peacock said: “It was a good workout against Slyne. We didn’t want to lose any fitness and everyone got a run-out. We’re doing everything we can to keep the lads going.”
Elsewhere, Clitheroe travel to Wakefield.
In the NPL Premier, AFC Fylde host Barwell and, in the Confrence Premier, Southport travel to Forest Green Rovers.