AFC Fylde 1, Cammell Laird 1
A controversial last-minute penalty rescued a point for promotion-chasing Fylde against relegation battlers Cammell Laird at Kellamergh Park last night.
Laird centre-back Nathan Edison blocked a close-range effort by Tom Cahill after 89 minutes but only managed to earn the Birkenhead outfit a temporary reprieve.
Referee John Corkhill momentarily hesitated before pointing to the spot and showing the red card to Edison for handball.
The decision provoked a furious reaction from Laird players and staff but Cahill coolly slid the spot-kick into the bottom right corner, sending keeper Phil Palethorpe the wrong way for his seventh goal in four games.
After the match, Fylde manager Kelham O’Hanlon said: “I thought it was going to be one of those games when we never scored, so I was delighted to get the draw in the end.” AFC remain fourth in Evo-Stik First Division North, though a fifth successive win would have lifted them above Chorley.
Laird manager Tony Sullivan, who was also shown a red card on the sidelines for his protests after the Fylde spot-kick, said: “The penalty wa unjust. If it happened in the centre circle he’s not going to give a free kick. It’s accidental.
“But to come here and feel as though we have had two points taken from us shows the strides we have made.”
On a cold, dank evening chances were few and far between, and it says much about the contest that both goals came from set-pieces.
Laird took the lead on 74 minutes, when a free kick curled into the top right corner from the left foot of winger Danny Andrews, leaving Coasters keeper Lewis Edge with little chance. Having comfortably beaten Laird 3-0 away in February, lacklustre Fylde failed to penetrate the combative Wirral team.
With the midfield struggling, the Coasters back four resorted to long balls aimed at striker Cahill and the dangerous Michael Barnes, who made a succession of dangerous runs down the left in the first half.
Fylde came closest to a goal on the stroke of half-time, when a left-footed Matt Kay free-kick was headed on to the post by Laird midfielder Marc Stevens.
Much-needed composure was added to Fylde’s performance in the opening 15 minutes of the second half as they tried to break down Laird’s stout defence with their more familiar silky passing.
But the renewed efforts failed to produce a chance in open play, though Kevin Townson had a header from a corner cleared off the line by Paul Wheeler on 54 minutes. The game soon became scrappy again until Andrews’ stunning free-kick spurred Fylde into action.
It was a Barnes’ cross on 89 minutes that provided Cahill with the opportunity to win a penalty and save Fylde’s day.
With six minutes of added time, and with Laird losing their heads, Fylde felt they could nick the win but they could not create further chances.
Fylde’s promotion push continues away to Woodley Sports this Saturday.
Fylde team: Edge, Jarvis (Lawlor 45), Elderton (Booth 83), Doughty, Steele, Mercer (c), Kay, Mahoney, Cahill, Townson (Walwyn 84), Barnes; not used: Stevenson, Bell