AFC Fylde 3 Halifax 2: Full report and reaction
AFC Fylde moved back to the top of National League North after Bohan Dixon's late strike sealed their first-ever win at Mill Farm.
Halifax are tipped to be among AFC Fylde’s promotion rivals this season but Coasters manager Dave Challinor was determined not to read too much into Halifax defender Danny Hone scored at both ends in the second half as Fylde survived a late red card for substitute Matt Blinkhorn to take full points after drawing their first two games at their new home.
Manager Dave Challinor stuck with the starting line-11 that drew 3-3 with Salford City in midweek, but Halifax made a bight start and could have taken the lead when Scott Garner was first to a loose ball in the area but saw his shot deflected wide.
Josh MacDonald then tried an ambitious overhead kick but Fylde keeper Tony Thompson saved comfortably.
Danny Rowe had the Coasters’ first chance on 15 minutes, testing Steven Drench with a trademark free-kick, though the keeper got down well to block the striker’s thunderous 40-yard strike.
The hitman took aim again when the ball broke kindly for him to the right of the penalty area but he dragged his shot wide and beyond the reach of the lurking Andy Bond.
At the other end, MacDonald was just wide with a glancing header at the near post.
And it was the visitors, like Fylde going into the game unbeaten, who opened the scoring on the half-hour.
Their towering talisman Tom Denton was played in by MacDonald from the right, and although his initial strike was blocked by Josh Langley, the striker swept home the rebound from 10 yards.
Their joy was shortlived, though, as the scores were level again two minutes later.
Caspar Hughes advanced towards goal before drilling a low strike into the bottom left-hand corner.
Hughes was soon on the prowl for a second but couldn’t quite get on the end of a James Hardy flick-on after Dixon’s shot had been blocked.
An evenly-contested match reached its midpoint with honours even, despite two late visitors to regain the lead.
First Halifax midfielder Jake Hibbs’ free-kick from the edge of the box sailed just over, then Denton’s overhead kick was headed off the goal-line by Rowe.
The hosts were first to threaten after the break as Rowe whipped in a delightful cross from the left that flashed wide of the far post.
Fylde took the lead on 50 minutes, when Rowe shifted the ball on to his left inside the box and unleashed a powerful strike which defender Hone could only turn into his own goal.
The momentum was with the Coasters and Sam Finley unleashed a fizzing effort from distance which Drench claimed at the second attempt.
Hone looked to make amends on the hour, when he met MacDonald’s cross from the right, but his effort went straight into the grateful clutches of Thompson.
Hone found redemption after 72 minutes, when he netted a scrappy goal from MacDonald’s low cross.
But Fylde were not to be denied and scored the winner seven minutes later.
Dixon picked up the ball 25 yards from goal, beat his man and slid a neat finish into the bottom corner of the net.
There was still life in the visitors’ attack and Garner flashed a shot wide as Halifax desperately looked for a way to keep their unbeaten record intact.
They very nearly found one when Kosylo nipped in but Thompson pulled off a fantastic fingertip save to nudge the ball on to the post.
There was a nervy finale for Fylde as substitute Matt Blinkhorn was adjudged to have kicked out at Hone and was given his marching orders just moments after entering the field.
But the Coasters held on to go into this afternoon’s round of fixtures ahead of Harrogate and 1883 Darlington – the league’s other unbeaten sides – on goal difference.
Challinor said: “I’m not one who goes along the line of it being a significant win so early in the season.
“It’s great to win – don’t get me wrong – but will it affect what happens during the rest of the season? Not in my opinion.
“I’m focused solely on us getting better, especially defensively. To win is great and we’ll enjoy our wins, but we must recover for Monday against Bradford Park Avenue now.
“I truly believe Halifax will be up there and we’ve taken three points off one of our rivals – that’s the one big thing from the game for me.
“The disappointment of conceding didn’t last very long because we scored straight away, but the way we defended was still disappointing because we’ve got an experienced back four and they need to take responsibility. At the minute, we’re not doing that well enough.”
But the manager realises there’s little time to iron out the errors between matches. “We don’t get much time to work because we have a game in less than 48 hours, then we have games on Saturdays and the next two Tuesdays.
“It’s further down the line before we go Saturday to Saturday (without a game). In the meantime, we’ve got to keep on going and picking up wins.”
AFC Fylde: Thompson, Holmes, Langley, Williams, Kennedy, C. Hughes (Baker 77), Bond, Finley (Collins 87), Hardy, Dixon (Blinkhorn 81), Rowe.
Subs not used: M. Hughes, Newell.
Halifax: Drench, Hibbs, Wilde, Roberts, Hone, Garner, MacDonald, Kosylo, Denton, Sinnott, Peniket (Burrow 81).
Subs not used: Nicholson, Hughes, O’Brien, Barrows