Cammell Laird 0 - AFC Fylde 3. Fylde climbed to second spot in Evo-Stik First Division North courtesy of three second-half goals on their first ever visit to a drenched Kirklands stadium.
Despite overnight rain making the pitch heavy, Fylde stuck to their normal style of play and moved the ball about well in the early stages.
They could have taken a lead as early as the fifth minute, when the influential Mike Barnes picked out Andy Bell with a delightful crossfield ball but the in-form striker’s close-range header was deflected wide.
Lairds were prepared to sit back and attack on the break, and this nearly paid off after ten minutes, when Jamie Henders got behind the defence only to fire his low shot against the post and Matt Lawlor cleared the danger.
Matt Mahoney tested home keeper Philip Palethorpe five minutes later, but Fylde were thankful of a last-ditch tackle by skipper Michael Stringfellow when Aarron Bowen broke free and appeals for offside were ignored.
Kelham O’Hanlon’s Fylde side continued to show why they are promotion contenders as they worked tirelessly for an opening, but they ended the half frustrated after Tom Cahill, Joe Booth and Mahoney were all denied by Palethorpe.
O’Hanlon was forced into his first substitution within minutes of the restart as Mahoney limped off to be replaced by recent signing Paul Jarvis, who made an immediate impact.
The substitute’s 53rd-minute pass released Bell, whose first-time shot was to strong for Palethorpe to hold and Booth pounced on the rebound to strike home from close range.
The home side almost levelled two minutes later, when Fylde keeper Dave Stevenson saved low to his left after Marc Stevens’ wild shot was deflected goalwards.
The visitors’ creative play again paid dividends as they doubled their lead on 57 minutes.
Booth had been causing the home side problems all afternoon, and when he drove a hopeful ball across Lairds’ six-yard box, the helpless Carl Clampitt could only steer it into his own net under intense pressure from strike duo Cahill and Bell.
Stevenson had to work hard for his clean sheet, saving well from Henders and Danny Andrews as Lairds looked to get back into a game that was slipping away from them.
As the Merseyside rain become torrential, Jarvis hit the post with a strike across goal on 73 minutes and Cahill was unlucky not to add his name to the scoresheet when his header flashed just wide with Palethorpe well beaten.
Bell was rewarded for his workmanlike shift with four minutes remaining, when he latched on to a through ball from strike partner Cahill to beat Palethorpe and round off a perfect afternoon for the Coasters.
Chester won at Durham City to stay six points ahead of Fylde and the top two meet at Kellamergh Park tomorrow (7.45) in the quarter-finals of the Presidents Cup.
O’Hanlon said: “It was very pleasing to see us come through with the points. We played some good football, even in the second half when conditions got worse.
“We will just keep taking care of our own business and keep churning out results to keep the pressure on at the top. Tuesday’s game against Chester is our next test and we will be looking forward to that now.”
Fylde: Stevenson, Lawlor, Hills (Elderton), Doughty, Stringfellow, Kay, Booth, Mahoney (Jarvis), Cahill (Walwyn),Bell, Barnes; not used: Nolan, Unsworth