Warren Spragg spoke to the Blackpool Gazette on Wednesday. Reproduced courtesy of the Gazette.
Injured Alex Loney may have played his last match for Fylde RFC but head coach Warren Spragg says the veteran hooker still has a massive part to play in the club’s future.
Player/coach Loney ruptured an Achilles tendon during Saturday’s 16-10 defeat at Sheffield Tigers, having sustained the same injury to his other leg two years earlier while representing Lancashire.
Spragg told The Gazette: “We know from Alex’s past experience that the recovery time is six to nine months with surgery, so it may well be that this was his last competitive game.
“It is really frustrating for Alex. He will be hobbling around for a few weeks, and after the op will be in a boot for a few months.
“We’ll see after that whether he wants to get involved on the playing side again, but first we need to give him time to get his head round the injury.
“He will still have a big part to play in the club going forward. Along with myself and Chris Briers, he is a very important part of the coaching and decision-making team.”
Injuries to fellow forwards Ben O’Ryan and Ben Vernon, who are both highly doubtful for tomorrow’s derby at Preston Grasshoppers after missing training earlier in the week, compounded “a day we’d rather forget” for Spragg and his side in South Yorkshire, where Sheffield recorded their third successive win over Fylde.
The visitors led 10-6 at half-time but any hopes Fylde had of breezing to victory with a strong wind in their favour were quickly dashed as the Tigers controlled the second 40.
Spragg added: “Both our tries were in the corner in the first half, and the wind was unbelievably strong and made the conversions impossible.
“I was really pleased to lead at half-time and we knew what we wanted to do tactically, but we did not execute as we had planned and the wind wasn’t as strong in the second half.
“Fair play to Sheffield, we could not wrestle possession and territory back from them.
“We had travel issues, and with the injuries as well it was a frustrating day all round. At least we got a point and we move on.”
Fylde held their lead until the latter stages, when Vernon and Ben Gregory were sinbinned in quick succession, reducing the visitors to 13 men.
“We were defending well and I don’t think either sinbinning was warranted,” said Spragg. “They had committed the same offences in the first half, and for two yellow cards to be shown with 15 minutes remaining made it very difficult for us.”
This was second-placed Fylde’s third defeat of the season, though they won’t need any extra motivation as they end the year away to second-bottom Preston Grasshoppers (2.30pm), who drew at the Woodlands at the start of the campaign.
Spragg admitted emotions can run too high in this derby and said: “It is all about keeping control of emotions and we have to treat it like a standalone fixture.
“In terms of league positions it’s no contest, but in terms of emotions it’s more like a cup final. It’s about who goes into Christmas with the bragging rights and that supersedes the league points and the teams’ form going into the game.”
Hoppers had lost six successive matches until Saturday’s trip to Otley produced that most unusual of results, a 0-0 draw.
And Spragg couldn’t resist a note of sarcasm when he added: “I think it was the first 0-0 in the National League since the 1990s. But apparently, as it was Hoppers, it was a much better 0-0 than anybody else has managed.”
Warren Spragg admits that catching runaway leaders Caldy now looks a forlorn hope but he insists Fylde RFC still have everything to play for in the second half of the National Two North promotion race.
Caldy have won every game this season and now stand eight points clear of second-placed Fylde with a game in hand.
Asked if he believed the Wirral club could yet be caught after seeing his side beaten for the third time this season at Sheffield Tigers, head coach Spragg said: “I don’t think so. We will give it our best and I’d like to think we can beat them here (the rematch is in February after Caldy’s 25-18 home win last month).
“But they would need to lose three or four games for us to catch them and I can’t see enough teams in our division being capable of that.”
The runners-up in Two North could also go up via a play-off against their counterparts from Two South.
Spragg said: “That league does not have a runaway leader and the top three are very close (only two points separate Tonbridge Juddians , Henley and Taunton Titans), so we’ll have to see how it goes after Christmas.
“You would want home advantage in the play-off, which goes to the team with more points. We just have to pick up as many points as we can in the second half of the season.”