Salford City welcome fellow promotion-hopefuls AFC Fylde to The Peninsula Stadium on Monday in the Vanarama National League (KO 15:00).
Matt Green’s last gasp winner at Boreham Wood on Friday means that automatic promotion is still in the realms of possibility for Salford, as third-place Solihull welcome leaders Leyton Orient. The most important focus has to be on three points against Fylde though so that whatever the result at The ATG Stadium, Salford are in the best position possible.
There are multiple permutations and any of the top three could be top come 5pm on Monday, so there is lots to be excited about for the final week!
Fylde could have also been a part of the promotion picture, but they have had to settle for a place in the play-offs. However there is still the matter of placing for the play-offs, and third is not out of reach for The Coasters if they can win their final two games and Solihull and Wrexham lose theirs. Of course if they can make it into third they will avoid an away tie in the play-offs, while a fourth or fifth place finish will give them home advantage in the qualifying round.
Margins in football are slim, and Fylde look set to learn that the hard way. Nine points behind leaders Leyton Orient, if they converted just four of their 15 draws into wins they would have been in contention for the title still. Five of those and they could have been top.
All things considered though, a second consecutive season finishing in the play-offs is not a bad thing for Dave Challinor’s side in their second season in The National League, and they are guaranteed at least one visit to Wembley in the FA Trophy Final where they face Leyton Orient.
The Coasters enjoyed a marvellous start to the season and by the end of October they had nine wins from 18 and just one defeat – our 2-0 win at Mill Farm in early September. In fact throughout the season only Orient have lost less (7) than Fylde’s 8 games, but it is the draws that have held them back, and in particular they have recorded a relatively unwanted eight 0-0s.
However Danny Rowe is in pole position to win the Golden Boot, an award which he shared last season, and Fylde can go into the play-offs with a solid unbeaten record against the rest of the teams in the play-offs from third to seventh.
Defeat at Braintree Town really dented Fylde’s hopes of a higher finish in the play-offs, but aside from that they have three wins and a draw in their last five and have scored in each after not finding the back of the net for two games.
Much like Salford, it’s not been the top teams that have caused Fylde many problems, but the likes of Braintree, Aldershot and Maidstone in the last couple of months. On the road too they have only won one of their last five, a 1-0 win at Gateshead when a certain Nick Haughton scored the winner.
One to watch – Danny Rowe
When a player scores the amount of goals that Rowe has done over the last few seasons, it is hard to over look them as a threat even when threats come from elsewhere. The steps up in level have not deterred the front man, and he is a near-dead cert to score for The Coasters which is not a bad asset to have!
There is a fairly rich history between Salford and Fylde from the Northern Premier League First Division North days, and the National League North – rich in comparison to most of the rest of the league that is!
Salford currently lead the way with six wins to Fylde’s three, and there has been one draw; that was a memorable 3-3 at Mill Farm in August 2016 in The National League North when Steve Williams nicked a point late on.
The Ammies have won the last two, including the emphatic 5-0 victory on Fylde’s last visit to Salford, back then The Peninsula Stadium was in the early stages of development. Then at the start of this season we won 2-0 at Mill Farm thanks to goals from Tom Walker and Adam Rooney.
There are a few players involved to have played for both Salford and Fylde. Coasters goalkeeper Jay Lynch returns to his home city, where in 127 appearances he kept 53 clean sheets and won back-to-back promotions in 2014-15 and 2015-16, while Nick Haughton also makes his return to The Peninsula Stadium. The 24-year-old ended his third spell here in October when he moved to Mill Farm. Ash Hemmings also signed at Salford in the summer before leaving for The Coasters before the season started.
Salford’s Danny Lloyd spent three years at Fylde where he won promotion to and helped the club establish themselves in the Conference North before leaving for Stockport County in 2016.