Fylde prepare for Darlington challenge

First published in Fylde RUFC

Fylde welcome Darlington Mowden Park to the Woodlands on Saturday - kick off 3pm - hoping to get their season back on track following the disappointing defeat at National Three (North) leaders Caldy.

Although Fylde have dropped to 6th place as a result, they are still only two points behind the 2nd placed club Harrogate.

Fylde & DMP have played ten matches in the last five seasons and all bar one of them have been won by the home side.

The sequence was broken by Mowden last January when they won what was to prove a season decider by 34-27 in a fine game at the Woodlands.

DMP went on to edge out Fylde for 2nd position in N3N and by so doing qualified for the promotion playoff at Cinderford.

They lost this most difficult of challenges heroically by a single point and therefore failed in their attempt to move up to National Two.

This season has been a very different experience for DMP as, with a substantially changed squad, they have struggled to date, winning just one of their nine games and currently occupying 13th place in the division.

Interestingly, the win was a fine 18-13 performance over Caldy, the Wirral club's only defeat of the season so far.

They also lost the EDF Trophy game to Hull Ionians by 7-26.

DMP has an interesting history. First it was Darlington Grammar School Old Boys in 1950.

Then, in 1972, it became Mowden Park before its final more recent change using the town's prefix to Darlington Mowden Park.

No one doubts their ambition, one of a growing number of meritocrats who have advanced up the RFU league structure to challenge more famous clubs like Fylde, and have been in N3N since 2001.

After eight years of negotiation with landowners, developers and planners, Park is hopeful over a long awaited relocation to a new ground at West Park.

Following the heart breaking defeat at Cinderford last April, the squad broke up.

Their Director of Rugby Andy Howells, moved on following a two year stint along with forwards coach Shaun Cassidy.

New Head Coach is former Barbarians & Harrogate lock Peter Taylor.

Since ending his playing career with Harrogate in 2005 Taylor has had a stint as senior coach at Bedford Athletic and has been the RAF forwards coach.

Last season's skipper Jamie Connolly, full-back Iain Dixon, flanker Aaron Myers and locks Paul Vinnecombe & Iain Robinson all moved to West Hartlepool, along with coach Kevan Oliphant.

Scrum-half Andy Foreman rejoined Hartlepool Rovers. Newcastle Falcons hooker Ross Batty, flanker Phil Dawson & Kiwi Sean Buckley also departed. Chris & James Clark (wing, scrum-half), Scott Riddell (backrow), Rob Kalbraier (prop), Jason Smithson (no 8), Gareth Kerr (winger) & Charlie Raynor (10/centre) moved to Blaydon.

So it's hardly surprising that DMP have struggled so far with many changes of personnel.

New players include back rower George Carpenter (Blaydon), wingers Adam Mackenzie (Scotland U'20s), Gavin Clegg (Darlington) & Matt Goforth (Sunderland), & scrum-half John Newton (ex-Wharfedale, Harrogate & Manchester).

Scrum-half Martin Lithgo has returned after spending last season on loan at Westoe.

Other newcomers include Kiwi hooker Howie Murray (Hartlepool) & fullback Gavin Painter (West Hartlepool).

Stars of DMP's backline include the highly experienced fly-half Jon Benson (ex Otley, Doncaster & Rotherham) and established centres Martin Featherstone (ex-Harrogate) & Ben Snook (formerly with Darlington).

Benson is the principal goal kicker but shares this job with Snook.

Among the forwards, established props Danny Brown (club captain) and Dan Miller are redoubtable along with experienced lock Luke Monument.

Fylde will check on centre Neil Hunter who has missed several matches with an ankle injury picked up in the warm-up against Harrogate on 11 October.

They will certainly miss prop Darren Clark who is suspended following his red card against Kendal.

It's hoped that on loan Canadian international lock Oliver Atkinson will make his home debut following a excellent display at Caldy on Saturday.

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