Water Win, As County Sea Off Coasters!
The Hatters notched up their fourth successive home victory, a fifth win in six matches, and a first -ever triumph at Edgeley Park over the ‘Coasters’ of Fylde, as they moved up another position into the National League’s top five.
As had been the case at Wrexham three days previously, they scored twice prior to the interval – on this occasion, courtesy of Ben Jackson’s first successful County strike and an own goal – before withstanding concerted pressure from their opponents who managed to score, albeit, thankfully, only the once.
The Hatters took to the field on a drizzly night, showing two changes from the line-up that had started in North Wales. With Jake Kirby and skipper Paul Turnbull ruled out after picking up knocks across the border, they were replaced by, respectively, Jackson, and by teenager Festus Arthur who was handed his full league debut. The visitors, for their part, gave starts to three players once of the SK3 parish, in Scott Duxbury, Matty Kosylo and Danny L Rowe, although their captain, and fellow ex-Hatter, Lewis Montrose was, like his opposite number, injured and did not feature.
Neither side had sight of goal until nine minutes were on the clock – whereupon Mark Yeates’ chip from the edge of the box found Rowe, whose improvised volley was comfortably caught by former Coaster Ben Hinchliffe, appearing between the sticks in his 150th match for County.
After another nine minutes, the Hatters were ahead, after Jackson cut in from the left and proceeded to let rip with a right-footed shot that took a deflection past unsuspecting Fylde goalkeeper James Montgomery.
And with only three more played the advantage was doubled, following a County break that saw Adam Thomas square the ball towards Elliot Osborne on his left. James Craigen’s intervention prevented the lay-off – but, to his and Fylde’s horror, ended up with the ball poked into the net.
Moments later it was almost three, when Sam Walker’s shot was blocked and the ball fell to Thomas who fired towards goal – only for the effort to be deflected off the head of an unwitting Sam Minhan and beyond the right post.
Hinchliffe dived to smother a low drive by Yeates from outside the box, and parried another effort from the same player around the right post, as the visitors, for all their possession, found chances at a premium in attempting to get back into contention ahead of the break.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Jackson, 18; Craigen (o.g.), 21), Fylde 0.
Following the resumption, Rowe fired an early shot from beyond the area that was deflected past the right post – before a further attempt from distance, courtesy of Kyle Jameson, was blasted high and wide.
Nyal Bell twice went close before the hour-mark, with one shot – from a Minihan cross on the right – taking a deflection into the near side-netting, and a second flying beyond the right post. And Duxbury had an opportunity to haunt his old club after he was played through on the left, but his shot was held without undue ceremony by erstwhile team-mate Hinchliffe.
Then, on the hour, Fylde’s arrears were halved – with Jordan Williams latching on to another through-ball, before unleashing a well-struck effort with his left foot shot past Hinchliffe.
Some end-to-end fare briefly ensued, with Dan Cowan conjuring up a volley that was narrowly shy of the left post – before both Rowe and Duxbury fired attempts wide, as the visitors strove to get back on level terms.
And they proceeded to lay siege to the County goal in added time – even stretching Hatters’ nerves to breaking point with the ultimate bête noire in contests with Fylde: the award of a free-kick for Rowe to take seconds from the end. But the wall stood firm to repel that, the whistle signalled an end to proceedings, and the result was one to be ‘Fylde under Fantastic’.
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Jackson, 18; Craigen (o.g.), 21), Fylde 1 (Williams, 60).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Keane, Palmer (Capt.), Cowan; Arthur, Walker; Thomas, Osborne (Downing, 90 + 2), Jackson (Dimaio, 63); Bell (Mulhern, 64).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Curran.
Man of the Match: Keane.
Attendance: 3,912 (100 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.