Four-goal Fylde maintain title bid

Rowe - scored twice
Rowe - scored twice

Leamington 1, AFC Fylde 4

The Coasters came from behind to record a commanding victory over 10-man Leamington and keep the pressure on Vanarama Conference North leaders Barrow.

Two Danny Rowe goals put the Coasters ahead at half-time and home scorer Dan Newton was sent off just before the interval for stamping on Joe Booth.

Fylde took full advantage in the second half, adding late goals through Adam Sumner and Richie Allen to stretch their unbeaten run to four.

Fylde went into the match having won only one of their previous seven and manager Dave Challinor was forced to make two changes as both captain Bradley Barnes and Josh Langley served suspensions following their dismissals in the draw at Hyde two weeks earlier.

That meant Luke Denson partnered stand-in skipper Tom Hannigan at centre-back, while Caspar Hughes started at left-back.

Rowe also returned to the starting 11 in place of Matt Blinkhorn, though Michael Barnes was still sidelined following an injury in the previous weekend’s home draw with Tamworth.

The Coasters started well and Danny Lloyd had a shot blocked before the home side hit the front after only eight minutes.

A through-ball by Nathan Hicks allowed Dan Newton to race through and fire past keeper Ben Hinchliffe

Fylde fans would be forgiven for fearing the worst after recent results, but their side were level within three minutes as a powerful drive from Rowe flew past Atkins.

Fylde began to edge the game in terms of possession and chances, but Leamington continued to look dangerous.

Man of the match Hannigan was unlucky to see his header tipped over by Atkins, then Denson headed the resulting corner narrowly wide.

Jamie Tank’s header was comfortably saved by Hinchliffe at the other end before Fylde broke forward for Allen to force a decent save from Atkins at his near post.

Poor defending almost allowed Hicks to restore his side’s lead but the alert Hinchliffe was on hand to deny the home striker with his legs on 24 minutes.

Fylde hearts were in their mouths on the half-hour, when a corner was headed back across their goal only for Joe Magunda to land his header on the roof of Fylde’s net. Josh Wilson shot wide for Fylde 90 seconds later.

As the half looked to be drawing to a relatively quiet close, Fylde snatched the lead thanks to Atkins’ mistake.

The Leamington stopper spilled Sumner’s cross and the ball fell kindly for Rowe to fire home. However, the home fans were aggrieved that the goal stood as they felt Atkins was fouled.

It got worse for the hosts in stoppage time, when Newton was rightly shown a straight red after felling Booth and then stamping on his back.

The striker walked straight off without even looking at the card referee Chris O’Donnell was holding. Despite their one-man advantage, Fylde couldn’t add a early third goal in the second period.

Rowe broke to the bye-line and tried to cut the ball back for Lloyd. The ball was cleared as far as Allen, who fired over on 50 minutes.

The visitors were playing some excellent keep-ball in midfield and Allen should have scored on 57 minutes, but his low shot was weak and straight at Atkins after an eight-man move.

A similar passing move then ended with Josh Wilson’s strike being easily gathered by the keeper.

Just past the hour, Leamington came close to an equaliser but Jack Edwards fired wide, Hannigan having been shown a yellow card for fouling Bilal Yafai.

The visitors started to look comfortable again in the final 15 minutes as Rowe and Denson were unlucky with shots, though Fylde were relieved when full-back Connor Gudger’s shot through a sea of bodies missed the target.

Fylde finally had breathing space on 83 minutes, when, Sumner’s 40-yard free-kick caught the wind and curled beyond the stranded Atkins, going in off the underside of the bar.

And two minutes later Allen put the icing on the cake with a sublime finish from Hinchliffe’s long clearance.

The striker curled a low shot around Atkins from just outside the area.

The victory keeps Fylde within three points of leaders Barrow, who scraped a 1-0 victory over Stalybridge.

Fylde manager Dave Challinor was delighted his injury-hit squad claimed all the points and relieved they have a full seven days to recover for the derby at Chorley.

Challinor said: “We are in a run of tough away games and just needed a win.

“We were down to the bare bones. Beside the suspensions, we had five out at training on Thursday with knocks and niggles.

“The bench was really young, and it’s tough for me to blood youngsters in an environment when there’s pressure on us to compete and we want to be successful.”