Chris Beech’s side, who sit second bottom going into the weekend, are looking for their first victory since their stunning 0-4 win away at Gateshead at the end of October. A stoppage time Taelor O’Kane header rescued a point for a ten-man Coasters side last weekend at Halifax Town, who will be hoping to carry the resilience shown at The Shay Stadium into this Saturday’s clash with Wanderers. Seven points separate the sides as we near the festive period – following Haydn Hollis’ debut, winning goal last time out against Boreham Wood which moved Wanderers up into 15th.
With a first competitive goal in Wanderers colours for Alfie Rutherford since his return from injury, along with Hollis’ debut winner, you’d find it hard to argue with White’s post-match view that “the Wanderers Gods looked down on us today”, as his side picked up just their second win since the start of October. However it may not have initially felt that way for the boss, and medical staff, after seeing top scorer Jason Prior limping off in the first half with a calf injury, leaving an already depleted Wanderers squad “on its knees”, according to White. A tightly contested first half an hour required an error for the deadlock to be broken; after Wood ‘keeper Dan Ashmore’s mis-placed pass landed at the feet of a grateful Rutherford, the striker clinically struck home his first National League goal since his return to Meadowbank earlier this month. An onslaught of pressure from Luke Garrard’s side followed the opener, who were eventually rewarded for their persistence just beyond the hour mark, as Tom Whelan headed home Charles Clayden’s cross to level the scoring. A makeshift Wanderers backline, which included Hollis, defended admirably for much of the encounter, as they looked to be on their way to holding out for a point. However the debutant had the final say, this time at the other end of the pitch as his 6’5 frame ducked low to head home the winner after being found unmarked at the back-post following an in-swinging corner, completing a dream debut in front of an estimated 1800+ Wanderers fans.
The resilient nature of his sides reaction to their 6-0 mauling at Gateshead the weekend prior ought to give White and the coaching staff a wealth of encouragement, especially given the “fragmented” nature of his squads fitness levels. White’s men, who’s preparation for their first visit to Mill Farm included a trip to Blackpool a day prior to kick-off, will be looking for their first away win in nearly two months.
Marc White confirmed on his weekly update that there were still a handful of key team members missing for this fixture including Matt Briggs and Charlie Carter. Jason Prior is also unlikely to feature with the striker subject to a late medical test. However, the travelling squad does include Tony Craig who had to sit out of our league match against Boreham Wood last Saturday.
Opposition Focus – The Coasters
Winless in their last three, an unpredictable Fylde side boast the joint-worst defensive record in the division, but have a reliable goalscoring output, their 30 goals being one of the best returns in the bottom half, bettering Dorking’s return by seven. O’Kanes header to rescue his side a point last weekend at Halifax was the 18-year-olds second of the game, and his fourth of the campaign, earning The Coasters their first point in three outings, O’Kane, who has come out of The Coasters’ academy, has emerged as a key player for Fylde side in recent weeks. Beech was notably impressed with his sides resilient display at Halifax last weekend, believing his side were unlucky not to go on and win the game, while also relishing the prospect of facing Wanderers for the first time, “I wish we could play them [Dorking] tonight, I feel so revved up]”, said the Fylde head coach following their 2-2 draw.
Their two successive wins at the end of October, followed by just one point from a possible nine thereafter, aptly illustrate their unpredictable nature; The Coasters finished off October with a 3-0 win at home to Oldham Athletic, bettered a week later with the 0-4 shock at Gateshead, before losing 1-0 to Sutton United in the FA Cup to kick off a winless November. Just four points separate Beech’s side and safety as they near the half-way mark of their first season back in the fifth tier.
Following their relegation from the National League in 2019/20, Fylde were one of the stronger teams during their short stint back in N/L North, finishing third in the 2021/22 season, reaching the play-offs before losing 2-0 to Boston United in the semi finals, before a resounding 95 points in the following campaign earned them National League status once again.
Among a number of incomings at Mill Farm in the summer included their joint top scorer, Jonathon Ustabasi, who arrived from Chorley FC. Both he and midfielder Nick Haughton, sit on five goals a piece in the league this season. The Coasters also recruited goalkeeper Theo Richardson, from their former N/L North compatriots Buxton FC, the ‘keeper has been an ever-present in Beech’s side this campaign.