Wakefield 0, AFC Fylde 1
AFC Fylde stretched their unbeaten run to eight games and moved four points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik Division One North after a hard-fought victory at the Stade France.
Richie Allen scored the only goal of the game in the 19th minute, as the Coasters made the most of a slip by title rivals Curzon Ashton, who needed a last-minute equaliser for a 3-3 draw at Harrogate RA.
Despite applying pressure for most of the match, Fylde couldn’t find a second goal that would provide a cushion over their relegation-threatened hosts, but Dave Challinor’s side now have breathing space at the top with four games remaining, starting with this afternoon’s home derby against Bamber Bridge.
Fylde came out of the blocks fast and should have been four goals up before Allen got on the scoresheet.
Just three minutes in, following a scramble for the ball, in which four Fylde players tried to get a shot on goal, it was Phil Doughty who got the final header, before Wakefield goalkeeper Danny Trueman finally gathered the ball.
Paul Jarvis and Joe Booth had attempts before Allen fired a shot narrowly wide of the Bears’ goal.
But three minutes later, the Coasters’ top scorer had his name on the scoresheet when he converted a brilliant ball into the box from Jarvis, who did well to beat his man on the left. It was Allen’s 23rd of the season for Fylde, his second since returning on loan from Fleetwood Town.
Fylde continued to dominate, but were unable to find a way past Trueman. The Bears keeper had to be at his best to deny Booth after 37 minutes, when he tipped his shot from the edge of the area onto the bar.
Wakefield were a constant threat on the break, and the closest they came in the first half was when Adam Sumner cleared Fernando Moke’s shot off the line, four minutes before the break.
In the second half, it was business as usual as the Coasters continued to pile pressure on the Wakefield goal to no avail.
Joe Booth headed a Jimmy McCarthy cross over the bar after 56 minutes, before trying his luck with a free-kick six minutes later, which was well covered by Trueman, despite the arrival of McCarthy who was ready to pounce on any loose ball.
Fylde had two more chances within five minutes to double their lead, when Doughty headed a corner straight at the keeper on 65 minutes, then McCarthy fired frustratingly wide from inside the box.
Going into the final 15 minutes, Town’s sixth successive win was looking safe, but the visitors were still pressing for that vital second.
Allen forced 76th minute save from the keeper, who turned Jarvis’ volley round the post superbly on 81 minutes.
With three minutes to go, the home side pushed for an equaliser as defender Declan Normaschild headed a corner into the arms of Zac Jones, then in stoppage time the home side won a free-kick yards outside the box which Moke could only fire wide.
It was three vital points for the Coasters, while Wakefield’s relegation danger has been intensified by Harrogate’s point against Curzon.
Fylde manager Challinor said: “I don’t think anyone could have complained with that.
“We should have won more comfortably and I think the lads do it on purpose to cause me all sorts of heartache, but we knew what we were coming into.
“The longer the game goes at 1-0 you’re going to get a little bit edgy, but all in all it was a really good performance.
“At this stage of the season it’s about winning, and if we do that winning 1-0 or 10-0, I’m happy.”
AFC Fylde: Jones, Heywood, Sumner, Doughty, Steel, B. Barnes, McCarthy, Booth (Mercer 90+2), Jarvis, Winter (Kay 80), Allen (M. Barnes 90). Not used: McEvilly, McDonald.