Going up via the play-offs is the best way to get promoted – that is the view of AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor.
The Coasters are just one win away from a place in the Conference North after they defeated Worksop Town 3-1 on Tuesday night in the NPL Premier Division play-off semi-final.
They now face Ashton United at Kellamergh Park tomorrow in the winner-takes-all showpiece final.
Challinor has experienced a whole multitude of emotions in his long career in the game as both a player and manager but nothing – in his opinion – can compare to the elation of winning promotion via the play-offs.
“The play-offs are just great games to be involved in,” Challinor said.
“I have been on both sides of the fence in terms of winning and losing in the play-offs.
“But I spoke to the squad before the game on Tuesday and I said in terms of the play-offs, there is no better way to get promoted.
“As a player you want to play in the big games with the big atmosphere.
“There’s always in the back of your mind that niggling doubt that one mistake could cost you the game.
“But you need to be mentally really strong and we will use the experiences of this year, and also last year when we lost in the play-offs, to help drive us on.”
Ashton caused a shock in midweek by defeating FC United, who finished just a point behind champions Chorley in the final league table.
And having finished 13 points behind third-placed Fylde, they will head to Kellamergh Park as the underdogs.
“Whatever awaited us after Tuesday’s win would have been a positive outcome as far we were concerned,” Challinor said.
“We had the motivation that we could be playing at home against Ashton or going away to FC United for a massive game played in front of a big crowd, which would probably have been one of the biggest games my players would have been involved in.
“To be at home in the final is brilliant – we can control external factors such as the pitch and making sure it is right in terms of the way we play.
“But of the four teams who reached the play-offs, Ashton came in as the underdogs.
“They sneaked in to them right at the end but once the play-offs start there are no favourites.
“Ashton are a really well-organised team and there’s probably no pressure on them externally – nobody will be thinking they can go and win.
“But within their dressing room, they will fancy themselves and rightly so.”