All Square Again, As County Stay Close To Coasters
With the two sides having drawn at Kellamergh Park a week ago last Saturday, there was a natural air of expectant cup-tie-type feeling ahead of what was a second League meeting between County and Fylde in the space of ten days.
In the event, the teams could once again neither be separated nor breach each others defences. And, as temperatures into the evening dropped below zero at Edgeley Park, those present will have been quite thankful that it wasnt a cup-tie requiring any extra time – all the more so, given that the referee, Steven Copeland, had delayed kick-off by fifteen minutes due to traffic congestion around Stockport.
When the players did take to the field for 8pm, Countys line-up showed just one change from the team that had started against Colwyn Bay three days earlier. Andy Owens, having been ‘Trophy-tied on that occasion, was recalled to replace the luckless Scott Duxbury at left back. The Hatters other loanee, Lee Stevenson, who had also not been eligible to feature in Saturdays tie, was named among the substitutes in place of Charlie Russell. Fyldes own bench included, as it had done ten days previously, an ex-Hatter in the form of Danny L Rowe.
In spite of their delayed journey down the M60, Fylde were quicker to settle into the game and to create chances – albeit without seriously testing Danny Hurst. Michael Potts drove the ball to the left of Countys post, before both Josh Wilson and Richie Allen unleashed curling shots that found their way up into the Cheadle End.
The Hatters, by contrast, had started rather more scrappily, and, during the first twenty minutes, were guilty of wasting possession in a couple of instances. That was, however, to change as the half moved into its second phase and Countys passing game returned. Kristian Dennis provided an initial calling card for Ben Hinchcliffe in the Fylde goal, by way of a shot from distance that dipped and, subsequently, a daisy-cutter drive wide of the upright. Chris Sharp came a little closer with a header onto the roof of the net, following a Jamie Milligan cross, before Countys first corner from the Captain found the head of Owens at close range – only for the goal-bound effort somehow to be cleared off the line by Danny Lloyd… without doubt one of Fyldes shortest players!
Referee Copeland did not exactly endear himself to the County faithful when booking Scott Spencer, after the County forward had gone to ground in the Fylde box, but permitting a very much more theatrical tumble of Lloyds to remain unpunished a little later.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Fylde 0.
While the session before the break was ‘a half of two halves, what followed was a second period throughout which each team could claim to have had fairly even sprinklings of possession and opportunities. Potts was the first player to test an opposing defence when play resumed, weaving his way into the County box before being stopped in his tracks by Daniel Gregson. Proceedings then transferred to the other end, as first a Milligan free kick, and then an Owens cross, flashed across the visitors area without quite finding a fellow Hatter to deliver the end product.
Further chances came and went. Brad Barnes half-volleyed one of them onto the turf with enough bounce to clear the goal, while successive Spencer headers floated over the bar and into Hinchcliffes arms. The Fylde ‘keeper was also well positioned to gather a subsequent shot from the same player, before blocking a closer-range Dennis attempt.
As the match entered its closing stages, the Coasters were to cause County a few last anxious moments. Allen, at the far post, just failed to connect properly with a Lloyd cross from the right, and the hearts of all Twelfth Men were in their mouths when Rowe almost came back to haunt his former club with a shot that fizzed across the goalmouth and grazed the post before, thankfully, going out to safety.
But the deadlock was not to be broken, and, for a second time, an absorbing contest ended goal-less. Countys run of home League victories, which had stood at seven, also came to an end – albeit against well-matched opponents, and with a point that sees the Hatters jump a place in the table to sixth, just one shy of the Play-off positions.
And, who knows, the Play-offs may very well throw these two teams together again in due course. If so, dont be surprised if were still slugging it out in search of a resolution by the time the following season is due to begin!!
FULL-TIME: County 0, Fylde 0.
Team: Hurst, Lees, Owens, Churchman, Gregson, OHalloran, Baker, Milligan (Woolfe, 88), Spencer (Stevenson, 83), Dennis, Sharp.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Fagbola, Belezika.
Booked: Gregson, Spencer.
Man of the Match: Sharp.
Attendance: 2,313 (37 away).