AFC Fylde 2
Fylde twice led through top scorers Danny Rowe and Steve Williams but an equaliser two minutes from time by substitute Joe Parker knocked the Coasters off top spot in Vanarama National North.
Dave Challinor made just one change to the side that beat Bradford Park Avenue last Monday, with Sam Finley coming into the team for Matty Hughes, and it was the midfielder who first threatened – his early sighter skipping off the surface into the goalkeeper’s arms.
The deadlock in the drizzle was broken after 11 minutes, when Rowe picked up on a loose back-pass to keeper Jasbir Singh and chipped a delightful left-footed strike over the stranded custodian for his 11th goal of the season.
Gloucester defender Keiran Thomas was perhaps lucky not to see red moments later, when he brought down Bohan Dixon and Rowe saw his curling effort from the resulting free-kick tipped around the post.
Fylde were piling the pressure on and Andy Bond was on target with a low first-time strike from 20 yards but the keeper got down well.
A minute’s applause on 19 minutes marked the tragic death of AFC Fylde Ladies’ player Zoe Tynan – Zoe’s number 19 shirt has now been retired – and Fylde so nearly scored during that minute.
A whipped-in free-kick from Tom Kennedy eluded everyone but keeper Singh, who managed to claw the ball off the line.
Gloucester should have levelled the scores on 25 minutes, when Zack Kotwica was played clean through. However, Tony Thompson did well to smother the chance with a big save.
Finley had a similar chance at the other end seconds later but again the keeper came out on top.
The rain was beginning to take its toll as Rowe’s low cross stopped dead before it could reach the lurking Finley at the back post.
Rowe himself headed just wide from a dangerous corner soon afterwards.
Only the woodwork prevented a second Fylde goal when Finley hit a peach of a strike that was diverted on to the post by Singh after some lovely link-up play between James Hardy and Rowe.
Fylde were again denied by a goal-line clearance when Rowe attempted to poke home at the back post but some resolute defending kept the hosts at bay as it remained 1-0 at half-time.
Livewire Finley fashioned the first real chance after the break when he played a one-two with Rowe on the edge of the box but semt his first-time strike wide of the left post.
Joe Hanks rose well to meet a cross from the left but his header was straight at Thompson before the stopper reacted well cut out Hopper’s close-range strike.
The visitors drew level against the run of play on 68 minutes. An in-swinging free-kick was flicked on to the post by Hopper and Craig Reid was lurking to tap home from close range.
The Coasters continued to push and had yet another chance cleared off the line as Hardy tried to poke home Bond’s left-footed strike.
Rowe was desperately unlucky to see a thunderous free-kick crash back off the bar and it began to look like it wouldn’t be Fylde’s day.
But with 10 minutes to play, Williams controlled the ball in the area from a corner and smashed and it into the roof of the net.
However there was to be one final twist in the game. With just two minutes of normal time to play, Parker was played in on the left side of the box, and he drilled a low shot across goal and into the far corner to earn a share of the spoils.
Salford City have replaced Fylde at the top but another busy night of National North action follows on Tuesday, when the Coasters are again at home to Curzon Ashton.
Fylde manager Challinor was left frustrated by Parker’s late equaliser.
The Coasters boss said; “We should have won comfortably. That’s not taking anything away from Gloucester – they worked hard – but we shouldn’t have to score three goals to win a game.
“It’s been the story of our season to date in terms of an inability to keep the ball out of our net.
“We could have scored six or seven. Their keeper has made two fantastic saves and we’ve hit the woodwork twice. It’s been cleared off the line three or four times in goalmouth scrambles as well.
“The goals we conceded we can’t say were good play. As a defender, you can over-analyse goals conceded. You are going to concede goals but the manner in which you concede needs fixing.
“It comes down to decision-making, and having the urgency and desire to keep the ball out of your net.”
As for the conditions, Challinor feels they will prepare his side for challenges to come. “It was tough. Ultimately, I want to be entertained and see my teams play, so do people who come here but you’ve got to be realistic,” he said.
“This isn’t weather for September. However, come November or December most matches at this level won’t be pretty. They’re going to be about the team that does the basics better and has a bit of a spark.”
AFC Fylde: Thompson, Holmes, Langley, Williams, Kennedy, C. Hughes, Bond, Finley, Dixon (Baker 76), Hardy, Rowe.
Subs not used: Collins, Wynne, M. Hughes, Newell.
Gloucester: Singh, Thomas, Hall, Hamilton, Avery, Knowles, Dinsley (Reid 46), Webb, Hopper, Kotwica (Parker 83), Hanks (Fitzgibbon 83).
Subs not used: Deaman, Dale
Ref: Billy Khatib