AFC Fylde 2 Stafford Rangers 1

Jamie Rainford and Jermaine Johnson
Jamie Rainford and Jermaine Johnson
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Title favourites Fylde got their Evo-Stik Northern Premier season off to the perfect start thanks to a debut winner from Danny Lloyd eight minutes from time.

The Staffordshire club took all six points off the coasters last season Fylde dominated from the start on the opening day.

Manager Dave Challinor gave full debuts to five of his six summer signings and the front three of Lloyd, Jamie Rainford and Michael Barnes caused most problems early on.

However, there were no chances of note in the first 10 minutes as Joe Booth shot wide with a weak effort before Sean Kinsella fired a free-kick into the arms of Fylde keeper Ben Hinchliffe from 25 yards.

Rainford was put through for a great chance on 18 minutes but opted to chip the oncoming Jon Brain and fired over from 16 yards.

Fylde had a fine 10-minute spell before half-time, when they should at least have taken the lead and could possibly have put the game to bed.

Lloyd’s first effort came in the 31st minute but he shot straight at Brain.

The keeper was a busy man over the next few minutes as he punched away Booth’s free-kick and did enough to deny Rainford. The rebound fell kindly for Lloyd, whose header from just inside the box came back off a post.

Rainford shot wide twice in the space of two minutes before a five-minute flurry from the visitors at the end of the half – Fabrice Kasiama had two chances, heading the first wide and then shooting across goal.

The Coaster started brightly in the second half but it was not until the 59th minute that the deadlock to be broken.

Harry Winter found himself in acres of space on the right of the box after a corner was not cleared and he smashed the ball home from 14 yards.

However, the lead lasted just two minutes as Daniel Quinn levelled for the visitors, latching on to a loose ball in the box after Kinsella was expertly tackled by Dave Hankin.

Quinn broke into the box again on 67 minutes but he went down easily under a challenge and the referee waved play on.

Matty Hughes headed a corner wide a minute before Rainford shot over under pressure from Chris Flynn.

From that point Stafford looked the more likely to find the winning goal as Kasiama and Alex Steadman wasted good chances to snatch a lead.

But, Lloyd had the final say, tapping in from close range from Barnes’ square ball after fellow debutant Hankin, controlled the ball excellently on halfway and played a great through ball to set Barnes running. Challinor said afterwards: “I never ever thought this was going to be an easy game and I knew they would match us up and make it difficult for us.

“I don’t really know what their game plan was but I’m sure Greg (Clowes, Stafford manager) would have taken a point.

“They are a disciplined side, well organised and they did a good job.

“ I think we were unfortunate not to go in at half-time at least one goal up, and if that had been the case maybe it would have been a different story.”

Fylde now look forward to tomorrow’s trip to expected promotion rivals FC United for their first away match of the season.

Last season’s beaten play-off finalists will be determined to get their season up and running after losing their opener 2-0 to Worksop

CHRIS PARK

Fylde: Hinchliffe, Hankin, Sumner, M. Hughes, Russell, C. Hughes, Booth (Blinkhorn 76), Winter, Rainford, M. Barnes, Lloyd; Not used: Hare, Dean, Denson, McCarthy.