Garforth 1 AFC Fylde 2
A GOAL in each half secured a comfortable ninth successive win for the Evo-Stik First Division North leaders, though they had to endure five nervous minutes of stoppage time after Garforth’s late consolation goal.
Joe Booth’s fifth goal in three games put Dave Challinor’s side in the driving seat before Michael Barnes slotted in a second from close range.
Andy Fowler, preferred up front to Keigan Parker in the starting 11, almost repaid his manager inside five minutes as he collected a pass from Paul Jarvis on the edge of the box but his shot sailed just over the bar.
Fowler continued to look lively early on but Barnes had the next chance on 13 minutes, when his shot from a corner hit the side-netting.
Booth then saw his free-kick well held by the keeper but within a minute he had put the Coasters in front.
Jarvis sent a brilliant cross into the box, where Booth got in front of his marker to head downwards and past the oncoming keeper.
That goal seemed to calm Fylde’s nerves but it was the home side who responded well and had a couple of chances to draw level.
Matt Dempsey headed a shot on goal with 22 minutes gone, and a minute later Fylde keeper Zac Jones had to stay big to deny Oliver Hotchkiss an equaliser.
Fylde were certainly creating more chances and should have gone in at the break with a healthier lead as Jarvis, Barnes and Fowler all troubled the Garforth defence.
The visitors remained in the ascendancy after the restart, and Jarvis had a 50th-minute penalty shout waved away when he went down in the box, despite protestations from the dugout.
Seven minutes later, Jarvis tested Ben Higginson’s agility with a free-kick and the Garforth keeper saved well again on the hour to deny Booth his second.
A second for the visitors did arrive on 63 minutes, however, when Higginson saved Fowler’s shot but the rebound fell kindly for Barnes to slot into an empty net.
Tempers flared on both sides late on as Fowler and Booth were booked for the visitors.
Booth’s foul was the more costly as it resulted in a free-kick on the edge of the box, which Lawrence Hunter fired expertly past a full-stretch Jones in the 89th minute.
Five minutes were added on for stoppages but Fylde weathered the storm to stay in front in the title race.
Though never one to sound entirely satisfied, Challinor said he was “delighted with the win”.
The Fylde boss said: “I was disappointed we conceded as I felt we were comfortable and could have picked them off with the chances we had.
“We played really well but, similar to the Radcliffe game, made it tough for ourselves.
“People spoke a lot about this game being our toughest test, but if you’d have asked Garforth before the game they would have said we were their toughest test as well.”
Goal difference continues to keep Fylde above Curzon Ashton, who won 3-1 at Radcliffe. However, Challinor’s side could have lost top spot by the time they play again, at home to Warrington Town tomorrow, as Curzon are in home action tonight against Bamber Bridge.
AFC Fylde: Jones, Heywood, Sumner (Nightingale 83), Doughty, Steel, B. Barnes, Booth, Kay, Fowler (Parker 72), M. Barnes, Jarvis (Waddington 69); not used: Mercer, McDonald.