AFC Fylde 5 Stalybridge Celtic 0: Full report and reaction
Star striker Danny Rowe kicked off the bonfire night celebrations early with a dazzling hat-trick to help AFC Fylde go four points clear at the top of Vanarama National North.
Goals from Dan Bradley and Steve Williams rounded off a comfortable afternoon at Mill Farm.
Manager Dave Challinor made two changes to the side that was beaten for the first time in the league the previous weekend at Tamworth, with Brendon Daniels and Williams replacing Danny Holmes and Bohan Dixon.
Visiting striker Josh Hine went close to opening the scoring inside the opening five minutes when he cleverly turned on the six yard line but fired his left-footed effort into the side-netting.
Captain Josh Langley was closest for Fylde in the opening stages but his first time strike from Rowe’s cut back was saved at point blank range by Grant Shenton in the Celtic goal. Fellow centre-half Williams nodded inches wide moment later in a bright start for the Coasters.
A goal was coming and it duly arrived in the 13th minute. Sam Finley whipped in a low cross from the right that was dummied by Rowe and tucked into the bottom right hand corner by Bradley.
The attacking threat was almost entirely one-way traffic and Daniels wasn’t far away with a glancing header from James Hardy’s cross.
The lead was soon doubled with a goal of individual brilliance from top scorer Rowe. The frontman received a quick throw on the byline, turned his man, shifted the ball past another and smashed a fierce strike across goal past the helpless keeper.
The goals kept on coming and Williams marked his return to the side with a fine finish to make it three after just 25 minutes. Rowe flicked on Bradley’s left wing cross and the ball fell kindly to Williams eight yards out, allowing the defender time to slot the ball into the opposite corner.
Celtic fashioned a rare opportunity on the half-hour mark when full-back Danny Morton advanced forward but his ambitious effort from distance flew over the bar.
The game was effectively put beyond any doubt inside 34 minutes. Hardy crossed from the right and Morton’s blushes were spared when his bizarre header bounced off his own bar, but the punishment wasn’t over as Rowe lashed home the rebound to make it four.
Rowe had a hat-trick chance before the break when lined up for free-kick on the 18-yard line however the opportunity was denied by the wall.
The Coasters took their foot off the gas after the break and the visitors looked to take advantage when Liam Dickinson looped a strike just over from Aiden Chippendale’s corner.
Stalybridge were given a let off when Matt Hughes sliced Kennedy’s cross narrowly wide of the post, however seconds later, Rowe completed his ‘perfect hat-trick’. Kennedy whipped in a delightful ball from the left and Rowe twisted to flick a header into the far top corner.
Morton was providing the main attacking threat for the visitors from right-back and tested Rhys Taylor with a low drive as the visiting side looked for a consolation.
Rowe was in the pursuit of a fourth and almost had it on 70 minutes but didn’t get a real connection on Bradley’s cross from close range.
Celtic looked like a wounded animal but had a little fight left in them when Brian Summerskill fired a vicious drive at the Fylde goal that dipped at the last second and landed on the roof of the netting.
The Coasters had a shout for a penalty when substitute Bohan Dixon galloped through on goal only to be thwarted by the onrushing goalkeeper however there was no real complaint from the midfielder.
Rowe hit the wall with another dangerous free-kick and Richie Baker dragged a shot wide as the Coasters saw out the game comfortably.
Dave Challinor celebrated five years as Fylde manager with the perfect present against Stalybridge.
Challinor said: “ It was a brilliant performance in the first half. It’s always difficult in the second half when you’re so comfortable, so to keep a clean sheet was great.
“Hopefully this is the start of another run for us. We were disappointed to lose at Tamworth and we bounce back in really good fashion. We’ll always strive for perfection and hopefully there will be a lot of success along the way.
“In the second half, we could have been better but it’s three points, five goals and a clean sheet, so you can’t really ask for a whole lot more than that.
“We have lots of work to do and we’re short on numbers defensively. There were some good things and some improvements, but ultimately we made the game easy for ourselves by scoring four goals in the first half.
“There were still signs in the second half of lapses in concentration and on another day we could have conceded.
“We know we need to improve in that department but that’s not just a back-four thing - that’s a collective thing. We know where we need to get better and we’ll strive to do that.”
DANIEL AGNEW and CHRIS COUGHLIN
AFC Fylde: Taylor, C. Hughes (Baker 46), Langley, Williams, Kennedy, Bond, Finley, Hardy (M. Hughes 81), Bradley, Daniels (Dixon 64), Rowe. Subs not used: Thompson, Blinkhorn.
Stalybridge: Shenton, Morton, Mather, Hughes, Wisdom, Chalmers (McKnight 37), Summerskill, Gee, Dickinson (Wilkins 52), Hine, Chippendale (Spencer 75). Subs not used: Heaton, Morning
Ref: Paul Brown