Curzon Ashton 2 AFC Fylde 0: First league defeat of season for 10-man Coasters
Fylde suffered their first league defeat of the season, playing more than half of this game with 10 men following a straight red card for David Perkins.
It could be said that Fylde’s late and somewhat unexpected match postponement against Boston United on Saturday morning gave Jim Bentley and his players a mini rest before this National League North clash.
Bentley made two changes to the side that lined up against Spennymoor Town seven days earlier, bringing striker Kurt Willoughby in for Jordan Hulme and naming latest signing Luke Brennan, among the substitutes.
Curzon Ashton manager Steve Cunningham opted for the same team that defeated Kettering Town 2-1 at the weekend.
AFC Fylde dominated possession in the early stages, with midfield trio David Perkins, Danny Philliskirk and Nick Haughton dictating the tempo of the match.
It was Curzon Ashton who recorded the first shot of the game, though, when central defender Douglas Tharme tried his luck from range after four minutes but keeper Chris Neal watched the ball sail wide.
Haughton replied with a speculative effort of his own just a minute later. The creative midfielder picked the ball up in a pocket of space and slalomed in and out of two Curzon defenders before dragging a shot just wide.
On eight minutes, former Fylde striker Darren Stephenson nearly got one over on his former team, picking up a wayward header from defender Alex Whitmore and unleashing an effort which Luke Burke did well to throw himself in front of.
The visitors came close to breaking the deadlock through Nathan Shaw after 11 minutes. The young Blackpool loanee used a mixture of skill and agility to get to the byline before chipping the ball to the back post only to see it hit the crossbar and drop behind for a goal-kick.
Ben Tollitt was next in line to give Cameron Mason a scare between the Curzon sticks.
The tireless Burke motored up the right and delivered a promising cross that found the feet of Tollitt. The winger's touch was perfect but the finish was a fraction wide.
Willoughby almost scored on his return but his strike after 20 minutes was skewed into the ground and eventually scrambled to safety.
Two minutes later, Whitmore outjumped his marker and met a Haughton corner with purpose. His header was cleared off the line, however, denying Fylde once again.
Shaw was next to almost round the keeper and score before Haughton tested Mason from distance.
Then came the opening goal on 36 minutes, and to the surprise of everyone it went to the hosts.
The dangerous Dominic Knowles held the ball up well and released Matty Waters, who fired a first-time strike past Neal from the corner of the penalty area to give Cunningham’s side an undeserved lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Fylde just two minutes later, when experienced midfielder Perkins lunged in on Samuel Walker and was shown a straight red-card by the referee.
With the home side now in the ascendency, Fylde were happy to get in at the interval trailing by a goal, regroup and come out fighting with 10 men in the second half.
The plan was shortlived, though, as it was Curzon who shot out of the traps. On 47 minutes the Fylde crossbar was shaking after Knowles' curled effort.
It didn't take the home side long to double their lead, though, as Stephenson broke away, wriggled past Nathan Pond and slotted into the back of the net on 53 minutes.
The visitors almost found a way back into the game when Whitmore latched on to a Haughton delivery but again saw his effort cleared off the goal-line.
Curzon responded and would have made it three if it wasn’t for a terrific save from Neal to deny Stephenson.
Willoughby was presented with a golden chance with a quarter of an hour to play.
The introduction of Blackburn loan winger Brennan sparked life into the Fylde side and he provided Willoughby with a one-on one opportunity. The resulting effort struck the post and somehow stayed out as the ball rolled along the goal-line and was eventually cleared.
The last 10 minutes consisted of time-wasting tactics from the home team, who battled to hang on to their two-goal advantage.
Fylde departed the Tameside Stadium empty-handed, as their inability to convert chances was punished by a hard-working Curzon Ashton outfit.
The Coasters remain second but are now four points behind leaders Gloucester City, who won by the only goal at Hereford.
Fylde: Neal, Burke, Conlan (Brennan 66), Pond, Whitmore (Ogle 88), Tollitt, Philliskirk, Haughton, Shaw, Perkins, Willoughby (Hulme 80); subs not used: Mondal, Lussey.
Curzon: Mason, Mahon, Waters, Stokes, Tharme, Turnbull, Hughes (Oyibo 86), Walker, Knowles, Curran (Harrop 58), Stephenson; subs not used: Hanson, Southern, Merrill.
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