Coasters stay ahead with new boys’ help

Michael Barnes of AFC Fylde
Michael Barnes of AFC Fylde
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Durham City 1 AFC Fylde 2. Fylde claimed three vital points in this close encounter in the North East to stay top of Evo-Stik First Division North.

First-half goals from Michael Barnes and Joe Booth were enough to stretch the Coasters’ unbeaten run to 11 games – ten of them won – and end a three-match winning streak which had taken Durham to the brink of the play-off zone.

There were long-awaited debuts for Jimmy McCarthy and Harry Winter as Fylde played their first match in February after back-to-back postponements.

Fylde started well on the 3G surface but the swirling winds looked set to make life difficult for both sides.

McCarthy, a 14-goal striker for Leek Town this season in First Division South, was looking lively and almost opened the scoring when he came within inches of connecting with a superb Paul Jarvis cross.

Against the run of play, the home side took the lead on the counter-attack after nine minutes.

A long ball forward found dangerman Steve Thompson, who broke clear of a clutch of defenders to beat keeper Zac Jones low to his left from 20 yards.

An action reply followed within 60 seconds at the other end, as Paul Jarvis bombed down the left touchline and curled in another dangerous cross for Barnes to fire home at the far post.

The frantic pace continued as Durham’s Dowson and Cutts both tested Jones with long-range, wind-assisted efforts but the Fylde keeper was in good form, tipping both efforts round the post.

McCarthy then sprinted at the Durham defence, beating two defenders only for the ball to become tangled up in the tricky striker’s feet as he prepared to shoot.

It was an end-to-end game but it was the Coasters who had the cutting edge.

And five minutes before the break, Joe Booth scored his 16th of the season after McCarthy forged his way down the right and crossed into a crowded penalty area. Matt Kay’s shot was goalbound but top scorer Barnes made sure.

Both sides had opportunities after the break but the Durham keeper became the busier.

Fylde also gave a debut to midfielder Harry Winter, when a muscle strain forced Booth off, and he made an instant impression with a 20-yarder which was arrowing towards goal until it was superbly tipped over the bar.

Further efforts followed from McCarthy and a speculative shot from Jarvis, both of which were well saved to deny Fylde the match-clinching third goal.

An extended period of stoppage time followed, after substitute Ben Waddington collided with the home keeper, but the Coasters held on comfortably.

Curzon Ashton, who won by the same score at Farsley on Saturday, can replace Fylde at the top by winning the first of their two games in hand at home to Clitheroe tonight.

Fylde: Jones, Heywood, Sumner, Doughty, Steel, B Barnes (Mercer), McCarthy (Waddington), Kay, Booth (Winter), Barnes, Jarvis; not used: Chilufya, Galliers