AFC Fylde 3 FC United of Manchester 1: Report and reaction
AFC Fylde made it two wins out of two in 2017 and boosted their Vanarama National North title charge by moving nine points clear at the top.
In front of another bumper crowd at Mill Farm, Brendon Daniels and Dan Bradley gave the Coasters a two-goal lead at the break.
Harry Winter threatened to make it a nervy finale but substitute Matty Hughes sealed victory with his first goal of the season.
Dave Challinor named the same starting 11 who won at Chorley on New Year’s Day, while James Hardy and Steve Williams were named on the bench after injury.
Former Fylde triallist Jason Gilchrist was close to opening the scoring for United in the opening moments, when he met George Thomson’s deep cross at the back post but headed over when well placed.
Leading goalscorer Danny Rowe tested goalkeeper Adriano Basso with Fylde’s first real attempt but the Italian did well to hold onto his stinging effort from distance.
The unlikely figure of Macauley Wilson had a murmur of a penalty shout when he was played clean through by Dan Bradley but the on-loan Blackpool full-back more likely lost his footing and the referee waved play on.
The impetus was with the hosts as Brendon Daniels fired a free-kick into the grateful arms of Basso.
The lively Bradley was the width of the woodwork from opening the scoring shortly after the 20-minute mark, when he cut in from the left only to see his fantastic strike cannon back off the crossbar.
The deadlock was broken just before the half-hour and it was a deserved goal for the hosts.
Rowe fizzed in a low cross from the right and Daniels beat his man to the ball at the front post before slotting home.
The visitors had a glorious chance to level when Chris Chantler delivered a dangerous ball to the back post for Thomson but keeper Rhys Taylor was more than equal to the forward’s volley.
FC United went closer still a moment later, when captain Jerome Wright broke into the box and lashed a low strike across goal and against the far post.
The Coasters immediately went up the other end and doubled their lead on 38 minutes. Bradley was picked out by Rowe and raced towards goal before cutting inside and rolling the ball into the bottom corner.
Karl Marginson’s United side seemed to have had the stuffing knocked out of them, Chantler trying his luck from distance as the bewildered visitors looked for a way back.
Thomson was looking their main threat and he again tested Taylor with a low shot from the edge of the area that was comfortably claimed.
The Coasters were controlling proceedings as the fog descended and almost had a third when Andy Bond intercepted on the edge of the area and squared for Rowe, whose shot was deflected narrowly wide.
Thomson was a whisker from pulling one back shortly after the hour, when his sublime free-kick from 25 yards crashed back off Taylor’s post. Luke Ashworth saw a header tipped over seconds later as his side began to press.
There was still some fight in the visitors and Gilchrist stung the palms of Taylor from 18 yards with a driven first-time effort.
Thomson was almost clean through with 15 minutes to go but took his shot early and it was easy for Taylor.
United did scored with 10 minutes remaining to make it a nervy end for the home side.
A long ball over the top foun Winter racing through on goal, and although it looked like the goalkeeper was favourite, confusion on the edge of the box allowed Winter to nip in and roll the ball into an empty goal.
Hardy was introduced from the bench and nearly made an immediate impact with a strike from the left that was saved at the near post.
The visitors had the wind in their sails and Thomson’s fierce effort from 20 yards was deflected narrowly around the post by his own man.
But with four minutes remaining the Coasters put the result beyond doubt. Hardy’s cut-back found the onrushing Hughes ,who took a touch before rifling into the bottom corner.
Second-placed Kidderminster’s 3-0 defeat at Salford City completed a fine day for the Coasters, who can now enjoy a two-week break from action due to their exit from the FA Trophy.
Manager Dave Challinor said: “It was a great day, with a brilliant crowd and a win.
“We were by no means at our best. We looked a little bit leggy but ultimately, we’ve won and the two-week break comes at a good time for us.
“It gives us time to recharge our batteries and really kick on again.
“It’s another one chalked off. It was a difficult game against a good team, who can feel a little hard done by that they haven’t got more out of the game.
“We’ve been clinical when we needed to be, but in the second half we were put under pressure and looked a little bit jaded.
“We knew how they would play, and once we scored the first goal we always felt that by sitting in and bringing them on a little we could have opportunities on the break.
“The potential risk of doing that is that you don’t get any end product and you leave yourself open the other way. The game got a little bit like that and we didn’t take our chances.
Two weeks on the training ground will be welcome for Challinor, who added: “We will be able to work on things without the pressure of a game on Saturday, so we’ll enjoy training this week. Next week, we’ll be back at it with Curzon on the Saturday.”
DANIEL AGNEW / CHRIS COUGHLIN
AFC Fylde: Taylor, Wilson (Baker 46), Langley, Collins, Kennedy, Bond, C. Hughes, Bradley, Dixon (Hardy 78), Daniels (M. Hughes 63), Rowe.
FC United: Basso, Tonge, Chantler, Brown (Lowe 62), Kay, Ashworth, Wolfenden (Glynn 55), Winter, Gilchrist (Greaves 74), Wright, Thomson.
Ref: Matthew Dicicco