Darlington 1883 1 AFC Fylde 1
AFC Fylde remain four points clear at the top of the National League North after grinding out a hard-fought point at title rivals Darlington.
Coasters star Danny Rowe opening the scoring midway through the first half, but Dave Challinor’s side was pegged back on the stroke of half-time when Josh Gillies slotted home.
Darlington enjoyed the better of the second half and almost nicked the points at the death however Dave Syers’ header was ruled out for offside.
Young Blackpool full-back Macauley Wilson was handed his Coasters debut as manager Challinor made just one change to the side that beat Stalybridge Celtic last weekend.
The hosts started the game brightly and captain Kev Burgess wasn’t far away with a first time effort from the edge of the area.
The momentum was with the home side and Fylde stopper Rhys Taylor had to be alert to keep out Josh Gillies back post header after 10 minutes.
Fylde were almost the masters of their own downfall five minutes later when Josh Langley’s back pass skidded past Taylor but thankfully went narrowly wide of the post.
The chances continued to flow for Darlington and moments later there was one for the outtakes video.
A corner was whipped in form the left and somehow Syers managed to head the ball into the ground and over the bar from a yard out.
Things weren’t going the visitors’ way and even the ever-reliable Rowe couldn’t kickstart his side into gear, firing high and wide with his first attempt of the afternoon, much to the delight of the home crowd.
However, just two minutes later the home side’s jeers were silenced as Rowe turned in the box and lashed home a crisp finish into the bottom corner.
Syers should have levelled the scores a minute later when he got ahead of his man to reach a ball into the box; however his volley from close range was wide of the left post.
Taylor was called into action again five minutes before the break, spectacularly clawing Gillies’ free-kick right out of the top corner.
Fylde thought they had the ball in the back of the net when Rowe’s flick on found Langley on the six-yard line, but the defender’s clever backheel was adjudged to have not crossed the line.
No sooner had play resumed and the hosts were level.
A long ball over the top was flicked on by Mark Beck and Gillies raced through and slotted past Taylor.
Debutant Wilson had his first chance in Fylde colours after the break when the ball dropped invitingly to him 25 yards out but his ambitious volley was well over.
Syers repeated his party trick on 53 minutes when the ball fell for him at the back post but once again, he impossibly headed over from a yard.
Darlington were enjoying the lion’s share of possession as the game progressed, winning a succession of corners; however the Fylde backline stood firm.
Syers nodded another glorious opportunity over the bar as the league’s second placed team pressed.
Thompson tried his luck from long range with a dipping drive that went narrowly wide as Darlington continued to control proceedings.
The Coasters relieved some pressure with an attack of their own but substitute Bohan Dixon headed wide from Kennedy’s cross.
The home side were sent into jubilation with just seconds of the 90 minutes remaining.
Terry Galbraith whipped in a free-kick from the right and Syers nodded home at the back post; their wild celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.
AFC Fylde boss Dave Challinor felt his side had to tough it out to claim a point at Darlington 1883 on Saturday.
Having led through Danny Rowe’s goal, the Coasters were pegged back and ended up sharing the spoils.
“It’s a good point,” Challinor admitted. “Did we deserve it? Like I’ve said before, we’ve played better than that and lost so to dig in and see it through in the second half took a big effort.
“We caused our own problems because we know that they are a big threat from set pieces, they’ve got good delivery.
“We gave them probably at least 15 free-kicks and corners in the second half and you can’t afford to do that.
“The referee didn’t give us the free-kicks that we gave them and that ultimately put us under pressure. To see it out and get a point could be a massive point for us.
“We knew it was a big opportunity for us today. They probably came into the game knowing that they couldn’t afford to lose really.
“We were probably in a bit of a different situation in that we had a four-point space.
“They’ve changed their system and matched us up a little bit and got runners going.
“Credit to them, they stopped us getting out but we’ve got to be more experienced and be able to control the momentum of the game.
“It’s a tough place to come and the result maintains our lead over them.”
Fylde: Taylor, Wilson, Langley, Williams, Kennedy, Bond, Finley, Hardy (Blinkhorn 73), Bradley, Daniels (Dixon 56), Rowe; not used: Collins, Baker, Hughes
Darlington: Jameson, Marrs, Watson (Scott 67), Turnbull, Burgess, Galbraith, Thompson (Cartman 84), Falkingham, Beck, Syers, Gillies. Subs: Bell, Hunter, Hardy.