Dave Challinor’s Fylde have caused Wrexham very specific problems this season, as their fluid movement going forwards discomforted the back four in a manner which very few sides managed in the opening half of the season. Both matches at Mill Farm ended in home victories, with Chris Dunn having to keep the score down with some good saves.
Challinor is a coach who is not scared to change the shape of his team, and personnel, from game-to-game to suit the opposition, and is also willing to make alterations during a game in order to maintain control.
An example of the flexibility Challinor demands from his players is offered by ex-Wrexham midfielder Sam Finlay. Finlay has been used in the centre of midfield, both to compete for possession and to start moves, higher up in a more attacking capacity, and on the flanks in a 4-2-3-1 which invited him to tuck inside and interchange with his strikers.
Against Solihull Moors last Saturday Challinor deployed his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with the second line all capable of getting into goal scoring positions in support of the central striker.
Danny Rowe’s threat up front is well known. He possesses a powerful shot from distance on his right foot, and has on occasion shown that he is able to shoot from distance with his left. He is also extremely dangerous from free kicks, striking the dead ball cleanly, and has scored from a long way out this season.
Rowe is also a strong target up front, able to win headers and hold the ball up. In the two games Wrexham played at Fylde earlier this season, the home team successfully got runners from deeper positions to work off him and create shooting opportunities. His strength gives Fylde the option to go long to him, but they prefer to work the ball forwards, giving runners time to get closer to him.
Andy Bond is important in this respect. He is a flexible midfielder whose starting point is in the hole behind Rowe, but he is energetic, and therefore able to get back to form a midfield three when the ball is lost. He is a strong runner who likes to take shot from the edge of the area. He can also get into goal scoring positions, and scored with a close range header last Saturday.
Ex-Wrexham winger Jonathan Smith was used on the right in Fylde’s game against Solihull Moors. Very left-footed, he is neat on the ball and calm in possession when space is restricted. His pace is a major threat on the break, and he has a burst of acceleration which allows him to beat his man.
He can be utilised anywhere across the front line. On the left he naturally operates more like an orthodox winger, although he still poses a threat on goal, and he can also play through the middle, where his pace is a real asset.
Lewis Montrose plays as a holding midfielder, and Challinor often likes to have a good physical presence in the centre of the pitch – against Wrexham he used Jason Taylor in the role in a purely destructive capacity. While he lacked mobility, he made an important impact with his strength and ability to win tackles and headers to protect his back four.
Montrose is more mobile, but is still more of a destructive midfielder than a player who will start attacking moves. His disciplinary record shows that he is susceptible to picking up cards with over-zealous tackles as he looks to fight for the ball in midfield: he has nine yellow cards and two reds this season.
Zaine Francis-Angol is a quick left back who impressed in the FA Cup match against Wrexham when he was able to keep up with the pace of Jack Mackreth. He is progressive and offers a threat on the overlap.
When a free kick is given within shooting range, Rowe is the obvious option, but Fylde are quite innovative from set pieces and sometimes look to spring the unexpected. They are particularly keen on players running over the ball but disguising the fact that they’ve touched it, hoping to allow a second player to surprise the defence by running at them.