AFC Fylde boosted their credentials with a clinical second-half display and a late goal that killed off a Fleet revival sparked by a truly wonderful strike from substitute Corey Whitely. The third goal on the break was a sucker punch and the opener a rather fortunate cross from Danny Rowe but in between the Fylde hotshot’s decent free-kick gave the Fleet a mountain to climb.
There was one change for the home side, with Daryl McMahon handing Luke Coulson his first start of the season in place of Whitely while Fylde brought Ashley Hemmings in for Joe Cardle. Hemmings was lively in an opening period where the visitors enjoyed much of the possession, keeping the Fleet penned into their own half.
Ryan Croasdale was cautioned inside two minutes for sliding in on Ebou Adams. He likely didn’t intend it quite the way it looked, but other referees might have looked more closely at that. Rowe began supplying balls into the Fleet box from the left for Fylde and from such a position, Nathan Ashmore was forced into making a low save inside his six-yard box.
Ten minutes in and Ashmore had to watch as a Rowe effort rolled past his far post. The Fleet struggled to hold on to the ball past the halfway line as the visitors looked comfortable on the move and kept the defence busy.
That didn’t last, however, and Fleet began to step it up on the quarter-hour mark. Sean Shields was the first to make inroads in the Fylde box and the home side forced a couple of corners as they settled into a little more rhythm. On 22 minutes, Sam Magri got forward to deliver a good cross to Coulson’s feet but his shot didn’t trouble Jay Lynch as Luke Burke helped it behind for another corner kick.
Fylde almost went ahead in bizarre circumstances five minutes later when Jack King’s routine back pass whistled past Ashmore as he slipped on contact and the ball rolled steadily towards the goalline, veering off just as the goalkeeper recovered.
The next 10 minutes was very quiet with passes and deliveries at both ends overhit and the rest of the play a largely midfield affair. Fleet had a couple of efforts from 38 minutes on when Dean Rance won a tackle with some determined effort, released Ebou Adams but his shot flew high. Then Coulson broke from the right, supplied Adams who moved the ball quickly to the opposite flank for Shields who shot into Lynch’s arms. Fleet finished the half with a delivery from the left by Weston that Adams got up to but nodded off target.
After the break, Fleet were on the attack again with Shields gaining ground to supply Danny Kedwell who met it well but couldn’t find the target. But then Fleet fell to what appeared to be something of a fluke, though Rowe might care to disagree. It was 49 minutes when he drifted to the left and there appeared to be no danger but a looping cross carried over the defence and Ashmore’s head to drop inside the far post.
Fleet tried to respond. Adams threw himself at a cross with a brave dive but he couldn’t keep that on target and then he supplied a high ball that dropped for Coulson 12 yards out but he was crowded out by two defenders either side of him.
But before the reds could gain a head of steam, Fylde struck again. A free-kick was awarded after a ball cannoned off Dave Winfield’s hand on the edge of the box and as McMahon hollered at his players to tighten up, Rowe bent a free-kick into the bottom corner for 2-0.
Fleet looked deflated for a spell and McMahon threw on Jack Powell, Corey Whitely and Darren McQueen in quick succession. On 65 minutes, Powell’s corner was touched on by Kedwell and dropped for King whose deft effort seemed destined to cross the line but Lynch managed to grab it.
Nine minutes later, Winfield hoisted a ball long and McQueen turned a defender to lash a shot towards the near post but Lynch managed to parry that. Then with 13 minutes left came a contender for Fleet’s goal of the season already when Whitely collected 25 yards out and let fly with a beauty of a shot that hit the underside of the crossbar and nearly burst the net.
It gave Fleet a new lease of life and for a spell, Fylde were wilting. Whitely turned supplier, sending Weston through but his cross was overhit and Shields couldn’t collect at the far post. Red shirts buzzed around the Fylde box and Weston was on hand again, loosing off an effort that was blocked on its way to the target. Fleet seemed destined to repeat their late equaliser of last season until with four minutes left, the Coasters provided the coup de grace. A long ball bounced in behind the Fleet defence and substitute Gime Touré already had a yard on them that turned into three when they looked to the linesman for an offside flag. But Touré strode on and pulled wide of Ashmore before delivering a crisp shot out of his reach for 3-1.
Fleet continued to press and Winfield headed against the crossbar from a corner, then sending the ball to the same place from the rebound but Fylde weren’t going to lose it having regained their two-goal advantage.
EUFC: Ashmore, Magri, King, Winfield, Weston, Rance, Drury (McQueen 66), Adams (Powell 58), Coulson (Whitely 58), Shields, Kedwell. Subs not used: Cheek, Bush.
AFCF: Lynch, Kane, Francis-Angol, Burke, Byrne, Bond, Croasdale, Kellermann (Brewitt 82), Hemmings (Tunnicliffe 69), Hardy (Toure 75), Rowe. Subs not used: Cardle, Tasdemir
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