The return to cup action is a welcome one for AFC Fylde tomorrow, with manager Dave Challinor again forced to rejig his injury-ravaged defence.
The Fylde boss was compelled to make defensive changes before and during Tuesday’s hard-earned 2-2 draw at Harrogate, and will have to do so again at Warrington Town in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy, and Challinor is relieved there are no league points at stake.
Already without the injured Dom Collins and Tom Hannigan, Challinor was able to welcome back Josh Langley at Harrogate only to lose left-back Alex Whittle to injury inside the first half-hour and then see his replacement Adam Sumner twist an ankle.
A visit to A&E with midfielder Richie Baker added to the anguish as his messily broken nose needed urgent attention.
Fylde have conceded early in both games over the past week, and although the defensive disruption is surely a contributing factor, Challinor isn’t looking for excuses.
He told The Gazette: “It’s not ideal but these things come to test us. We were able to field virtually the same back four throughout last season and that really helped us. Obviously the players could get used to each other’s style.
“When you are having to chop and change, you have to concentrate all the harder.
“We have to learn that when the team is changing you aren’t going to be able to just go out and play from minute one. Sometimes you have to play ugly for a while and grow into a game.
“The injury situation is crazy, but in most cases the players will be out for weeks, rather than months, so we have to try to get through the next few weeks. Hopefully we’ll have more bodies back for Christmas because we know how busy that period is.”
It meant a baptism of fire for teenage centre-half Brad Roscoe, who arrived on loan from Fleetwood Town’s development squad last Friday and was thrown in for two National League games in the next four days. Challinor added: “We lost Josh (Langley) on the Friday morning, when his ankle swelled up, so we threw Brad in at the deep end.
“He made a big mistake for the penalty (North Ferriby’s second goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win) but he will learn from that and a lot of our defending has been good in the last two games. He did well at Harrogate, who are up there and are doing well. It’s always a tough place to go, especially with a depleted side.
“We had to weather the storm for the first 15-20 minutes but we grew into the game. We asked for a response in the second half because we felt Harrogate had worked really hard in the first half and may struggle to keep it up. It’s a shame we fell behind again so soon after equalising but we deserved the second goal.”
While the Football League transfer market is now completely closed until New Year, the National League faced no such loan deadline this week, though it’s an option Challinor is wary of taking further advantage of.
“It a bit of quandary for us because, as I say, our injuries are not long-term, so you have to be very careful before you bring anyone else in,” he said.
“Ther cup game is certainly timely for us, as it gives players another week to nurse their injuries. But we’ll still be looking to field a strong side because it’s a game we really want to win.”
Indeed, a game against Evo-Stik League opposition presents an inviting chance to regain a winning habit the Coasters have got out of in recent weeks.
They had won 10 of their 11 games, drawing the other, before this month’s high-profile FA Cup first round tie at Millwall. But they lost that day and have won none of their subsequent four.
Challinor notes a similar pattern 12 months ago, but doesn’t agree that the season can go a little flat for a while after such a glamour game with Football League opposition.
“It was the same after Plymouth last year,” he recalled. “We lost there in the FA Cup and then drew our next three and went out of the Lancashire Trophy.
“It doesn’t help when you have tough games straight after the FA Cup (they visited North Ferriby last year too) and the injuries play a part, but you have to keep going.”
Tomorrow’s hosts Warrington have beaten Brighouse and Basford to reach this stage .
Challinor will have midfielder Baker available but warned he may not be a pretty sight.
“It was a bad break and we just couldn’t stop the bleeding,” he explained. “But he got it reset at hospital. He’ll look a bit of a mess for a few days but it won’t stop him playing.”