Northwich Victoria 4 AFC Fylde 2
Fylde were made to pay for defensive errors as they bowed out of the FA Trophy at the Victoria Stadium.
The underdogs opened the scoring in the first qualifying round but found themselves 4-1 down to the Evo-Stik League’s top side with just three minutes gone in the second half.
Coasters manager Kelham O’Hanlon was forced into a reshuffle, with Michael Barnes, Joe Booth and Matt Kay all injured. Gary Stopforth returned after six weeks out with a knee problem and Phil Doughty filled in at left-back.
Fylde started brightly against the premier division pace-setters as ex-Vics striker Ritchie Allen surged through only to see his shot turned round the post by keeper Ben Hinchliffe.
The home side hit back as striker Chris Budrys, a handful all afternoon for the Coasters defence, headed narrowly wide from Ryan Wade’s teasing corner.
Both teams looked to play passing football and it was Fylde who took the lead after 14 minutes from a fine solo effort from Keigan Parker.
The former Seasiders and Fleetwood striker caught Hinchliffe out from 20 yards with a shot which squeezed under the keeper and found the bottom corner to the delight of the travelling fans.
But then it all went wrong for O’Hanlon’s side, starting five minutes later when impressive full- back John Disney scored a cracker. He lost his marker and drove a rising shot from outside the box into the top left corner.
It remained an open game and Allen had a great chance to restore Fylde’s lead but blazed over from close range with the goal at his mercy.
Vics pressurised the Fylde defence with a series of crosses and corners, and these paid dividends when unmarked skipper Ian Kearney thumped home a far-post header on the half-hour.
The home side were now on top and extended their lead when big striker Budrys went down in a tussle for the ball with Glen Steel and a penalty was awarded to the dismay of Fylde’s players.
Tom Field coolly converted into the top corner and it was 3-1 after 38 minutes.
O’Hanlon’s stern words couldn’t change Fylde’s fortunes as a bizarre own goal sealed their fate at the start of the second half.
Lewis Short’s cross was diverted into his own net by Rick Mercer and there was no way back for Fylde, though Lee Thorpe drilled a shot narrowly wide after good work by striker partner Parker.
The tie done and dusted, the home side eased off although Ryan Wade’s effort forced a one-handed save from Rick Whiteside.
The Coasters did have a glut of late chances. Thorpe pulled a goal back from an acute angle and could have had more, shooting and heading fractionally wide.
But Andy Preece’s men fully deserved their win and would have expected a sterner test from a side with ambitions to compete in their division next season.
Indeed, they could take a leaf from the book of Preece’s assistant Andy Morrison, another former Blackpool favourite.
The book is called the The Good the Mad and the Ugly, and Morrison promoted it post-match – his brand of no-nonsense defending would have made all the difference for the Coasters!
O’Hanlon said: “I’m very disappointed to go out of the competition but we gifted them goals and you can’t do that against a side in a higher division. We were punished for defensive mistakes after starting the game so well.”
The manager is now fully focused on getting Fylde’s Evo-Stik First Division North campaign back on track by making the most of the games in hand resulting from their cup exploits.
Saturday’s home match against Woodley Sports is crucial as Fylde look to make inroads into Curzon Ashton and Skelmersdale’s sizeable lead.
Fylde: Whiteside, Heywood, Jarvis, Mercer, Steel, Doughty, Stopforth (Booth), Beattie, Thorpe, Parker, Allen; not used: McDonald, Penswick, Stringfellow, Kusaloka,