Runcorn Town 1 AFC Fylde 5

James Hardy scores for Fylde Picture: STEVE MCLELLAN
James Hardy scores for Fylde Picture: STEVE MCLELLAN
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Three quickfire goals in five first-half minutes earned Fylde a comfortable pre-season victory in Cheshire.

Despite the heat, the Coasters fired out of the blocks and early strikes from Danny Rowe, Jordan Wynne and James Hardy gave them an unassailable lead. A second goal from Rowe and another from Richie Baker sealed the result.

Star striker Rowe had the ball in the back of the net inside the opening five minutes when he lifted the ball over goalkeeper Louie Makin, but he was adjudged to have fouled his man in the build-up.

Wynne was looking dangerous in the early stages and his cut-back found fellow midfielder Hardy eight yards from goal but the goalkeeper was equal to his first time strike.

The visitors duly broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. Sam Finley was brought down 30 yards from goal and Rowe struck a low drive into the bottom left hand corner.

Fylde didn’t have to wait long to grab a second goal when Wynne found himself clean through with the simple task of slotting the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

Two minutes later and it was three – this time Hardy beat his man inside the area, shifted the ball on to his right foot and slammed home.

Goalkeeper Makin was called upon twice in quick succession and did well to keep out two vicious strikes from the goal-hungry Rowe.

The hosts were presented with their first opportunity of the match on the half-hour mark when Thomas Rowlands raced through but Fylde stopper Liam Sharpe got down well to claim at the winger’s feet.

The second half was brought to life with a fine solo goal from Rowe on 55 minutes. The frontman nutmegged his marker as he cut in from the left wing and side-footed past the helpless goalkeeper.

The Coasters were out of sight minutes later when a cross from the right found Baker, who glanced a header past Makin when unmarked in the area.

The midfielder was denied a second when he terrific drive from fully 25 yards drifted agonisingly wide of the far post.

Runcorn fashioned a rare opportunity with 20 minutes to play when David Forbes hit a sublime free-kick that Sharpe superbly clawed out of the top corner and around the post.

Some fine play almost resulted in a sixth for the Coasters, when Baker’s slide-rule pass found Matt Dudley, who was narrowly off-target.

The hosts had a consolation goal on 75 minutes, when the lively Aaron Rey rounded Sharpe and took his time before blasting the ball into the back of the net.

Fylde boss Dave Challinor said afterwards: “They were unique conditions, particularly for an evening game, being so hot and humid. It was a bit of a test for us, with it being so warm and the grass being quite long, and it wasn’t conducive to a fast-paced game.

“But there were still some pleasing aspects. We scored some goals and played some decent stuff, but most importantly it was another hour or so playing time for most of the lads.

“It’s another game out the way without any problems. The lads will have a day off now because they have worked really hard recently, and then we are right back at it on Thursday in preparation for Oldham on Saturday.

“Next week will be a really tough one as we try to push on to the fitness levels we want to be at for the start of the season.”

DANIEL AGNEW

Fylde: Sharpe, C. Hughes, Langley (Baker 46), Williams (Collins 50), Sumner, Bond (Dudley 50), Finley (Crainey) , Wynne (Holmes 50), Hardy (Hassell 46), Daniels, Rowe (Bove 50).