'I’ve had lots of battles with Salford' – Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor looks ahead to first EFL meeting with The Ammies
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The Hartlepool United manager first locked horns with The Ammies as AFC Fylde manager in the Northern Premier League Division One 10 seasons ago.
A couple of promotions later and Challinor came up against Salford again in the National League North with a memorable 3-3 draw at Mill Farm in 2016.
The reverse fixture that season would stick in Challinor’s mind as Fylde were beaten 5-0 at Moor Lane on their way to securing the title.
"Although we won the league, that loss still grates on me,” he admitted.
Salford then followed Fylde up into the National League and the teams met in the play-off final in 2019. It would prove to be something of a sliding doors moment for the clubs as Salford went on to win 3-0 and secured their spot in the Football League while Fylde missed out on promotion and were subsequently relegated from the fifth tier the following season.
"I’ve had lots of battles with Salford coming through the leagues with Fylde,” Challinor added. “We went there second to last game of the season and won 1-0 then a few weeks later we came up against them in a play-off final and lost which was the more important game.”
Now Challinor is preparing his Hartlepool United side to face Salford this Saturday (3pm kick-off). His only previous encounter against Salford with Pools came in the FA Cup first round last year as the side were beaten 2-0 after extra-time at Moor Lane.
“We put in a really good performance in the FA Cup and it was a game I felt we should have won as the underdogs,” Challinor added.
“There has been battles with them and they’ve obviously changed the landscape of the club significantly over the past few years and they’re one of the clubs really looking to have a go.
"Although there have been plenty of battles over the years, Saturday’s game is the next and most important battle.”
Now Challinor will finally come up against Salford as a Football League manager. And with a quarter of the season played, Pools sit five points ahead of Salford going into the game.
When asked if he would have taken that at the start of the campaign, Challinor responded: “Yeah. I’ll take it at the end of the season too!
"I would have expected them to be up there because you look at teams on paper at the start of the season and they were one with the investment and ambition they have that you’d put higher than what they are at the moment.
"But we’re quarter of the way through, they’ll look at how they’ve missed players through suspension and things like that and look to put a run together.
"That run can come at any time and the way the table is, a few wins can completely change the outlook of where you’re at.
"There's been a lot of change there over the last 12 months where Gary [Bowyer] has come in and brought in his own players and style. They've got a squad full of players who have played at a higher level so it will be difficult.”