FC UNITED OF MANCHESTER 1 AFC FYLDE 2: Full report and reaction
AFC Fylde climbed up into second in the National League North with this hard-fought victory.
Captain Tom Hannigan headed the Coasters into the lead shortly before the break and Danny Rowe doubled the advantage with a sensational second-half strike, his 31st goal of the season.
The home side ensured a nervy end to the match when Harry Winter glanced a header into the far corner but Dave Challinor’s side held on for this third consecutive victory.
Challinor made three changes to the side that beat Corby Town in midweek, with Stephen Crainey recalled in place of Caspar Hughes, Sam Finley coming in for James Hardy and goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe standing in for the injured Matt Urwin.
The hosts came closest to opening the scoring in the first five minutes, and striker Tom Greaves really should have done better with a glorious double-chance.
His free header at the back post looped up into the air and he sliced his follow up effort narrowly wide of the far post.
Rowe looked to fashion the Coasters’ first real opportunity on 10 minutes, when he twisted and turned on the edge of the United box, but his ferocious strike was closed down.
Rowe had the ball in the back of the net six minutes later, after rounding the goalkeeper, but Carnell’s blushes were spared by the linesman’s flag.
Play raced up to the other end and George Thomson was a whisker away with a vicious drive from 15 yards.
The home side were enjoying the better of the early exchanges and only a fine block from Josh Langley denied Tom Brown from the edge of the area midway through the half.
Perhaps against the run of play the visitors took the lead after 31 minutes. Richie Baker played Crainey down the line and the former Scotland international landed a pinpoint cross onto the head of Hannigan, who looped his header across goal and into the top corner.
There was a heart in mouth moment for Challinor’s side, when Langley looked to have brought down Greaves 25 yards from goal, but the referee produced only a yellow card and Thomson fired the resultant free-kick into the wall.
Baker came close to doubling the Coasters’ lead seconds before the break but Carnell got down well to his fine half-volley.
Fylde made the perfect start to the second half and were two goals up within four minutes of the restart.
Top scorer Rowe picked up the ball on the edge of the box and lashed it into the top corner with aplomb. The visitors were taking charge and Baker went close moments later, but his strike from 20 yards was narrowly over the top.
The Coasters turned on the style when some fantastic interplay between Baker and Bohan Dixon saw the ball laid off to Hughes. However, his goalbound effort was cleared off the line.
Substitute Dion Charles was next to try his luck as he danced into the United box on the right but his shot was deflected around the post.
The hosts began to up the pressure and pulled one back with 20 minutes to go, when ex-Fylde man Harry Winter glanced a cross from the left into the far corner of the goal.
Rowe saw another goal chalked off after he again rounded Carnell and was unfortunate to see the flag raised.
The big frontman wasn’t quite as accurate with his next strike, blasting the ball well over the stand as Fylde looked to restore their two goal cushion with five minu-es to go.
Thomson went close in the dying moments, when his low strike from 20 yards was turned around the post by an outstretched leg.
Finley was causing the home side problems but his curling effort from 18 yards was comfortable for Carnell.
Hinchliffe, who had very little to do throughout the match, pulled off an outstanding save with seconds to go, tipping Greaves’ header over the bar from point-blank range.
Leaders Solihull Moore retained their nine-point advantage over Fylde with victory over Lowestoft and can extend it tomorrow, when it’s their turn to face FC United.
Manager Dave Challinor hailed Fylde’s victory in front of almost 3,500 at one of the National League’s most daunting grounds.
Challinor said: “It’s a tough place to come, and a unique environment and atmosphere in our league. It was more like a cup game.
We were a little bit stop- start in the first half and we played a bit too safe.
“It’s always going to a a tough game between two side that like to play. But in the second half I thought we really stepped it up and for 25 minutes we were fantastic .
“We should have scored a couple more before they did and killed the game off.
We are delighted to have come away with the three points, and although we had to rely on Ben Hinchliffe making a fantastic save at the end I thought we thoroughly deserved it.
“We defended brilliantly and I thought our two centre-halves were outstanding.”
Challinor explained the decision to leave out James Hardy, even though the midfielder had settled well into the side.
The Fylde boss said: “We chose to go with our most experienced side for the match because of the atmosphere. A couple of lads who missed out, including young, were unfortunate but this was probably the worst game to throw a young lad into.
We thought he would be in and out of the season, but he has done exceptionally well recently and he is right in our plans.
Fylde: Hinchliffe, Sumner, Crainey, Langley, Hannigan, Baker, Barnes, Dixon (Lloyd62), Finley (Blinkhorn 80), M Hughes (Charles 62), Rowe; Not used: Collins, Hardy