FC United of Manchester 2 AFC Fylde 3: Report and reaction
Ten-man Fylde held on for a huge three points at FC United of Manchester to move three points clear at the top of Vanarama National North.
Former Fylde striker Harry Winter opened the scoring for the home side only for goals by Danny Rowe and Bohan Dixon to turn the game on its head.
Sam Finley was dismissed on the stoke of half-time but Rowe’s 16th goal of the season proved decisive, although George Thomson pulled one back for the hosts. FC United almost got off to the perfect start, when Dale Johnson shrugged off Josh Langley and slotted home but the frontman was adjudged to have fouled the Coasters captain.
The hosts continued their blistering start as Thompson tested his namesake in the Coasters goal, Tony Thompson, with a stinging left-footed strike from 20 yards.
Fylde hit back with a glorious chance inside a frantic opening five minutes as Andy Bond whipped in a delightful cross from the left but James Hardy’s first-time effort was tipped on to the post by Jonny Diba.
FC United took the lead on 12 minutes, when Dale Johnson again got the better of Langley and Winter had the simple task of rolling the ball past Thompson from 10 yards.
However, the visitors were back on level terms just two minutes later and a familiar face did the damage.
Hardy delivered an inch-perfect ball into the box and Rowe rose highest to glance a header past Diba.
And Fylde completed a quick-fire turnaround on 19 minutes. A quick throw-in from Bond allowed Hardy to slip in Dixon and the towering midfielder finished with aplomb.
Finley let fly with a rasping drive from 25 yards as the Coasters began to dominate. Rowe almost added his second on the half-hour but his header was off-target from eight yards out.
The hosts went close to levelling shortly before half-time, when James Hooper raced down the lef but his vicious left-footed strike flew over the bar.
Then the visitors were reduced to 10 men in ridiculous fashion. Finley misplaced a pass and, in frustration, kicked a water bottle into the crowd. After a moment’s consultation with his assistant, the referee brandished a red card.
The Coasters looked like they would be under the cosh for the second half but Rowe had other ideas.
Six minutes in, the frontman beat two markers, shifted the ball on to his right foot and fired low into the far corner from 15 yards.
FC United were launching cross after cross into the Fylde box and Dale Tonge was close when he connected with one at the back post.
Substitute Tom Greaves was a whisker away from latching on to another but the Coasters were standing firm.
Fylde fashioned a rare attack of their own and Rowe was only a foot away from another hat-trick with thunderbolt from fully 30 yards.
Dixon tested Diba a moment later with an effort bound for the far corner until the keeper got down well low to his left.
The hosts did reduce the deficit with just over 10 minutes to play, Thomson curling home with a fine first-time finish from the edge of the box.
The crosses and long balls continued to rain down into the Coasters box but their backline, marshalled by Langley, stood strong.
However, Greaves was agonisingly close with a flicked header in the dying moments.
Former Fylde trainee Jason Gilchrist also tried his luck but Thompson was well behind his curling strike.
First defeats for Salford City and Harrogate left Fylde clear at the top and with the only unbeaten record after 10 games as they prepare to visit mid-table Stockport County tomorrow.
Dave Challinor was delighted by the discipline of his 10-man Fylde team that won at FA United.
The Coasters boss said: “We have played for over half the game with 10 men and worked like no-one’s business to get that result.
“You have to ride your luck at times when you are a man light. We had to adapt and play in a way I thought would win us the game. We accepted that they would have quite a lot of the ball but we kept our shape.
“We relied on people doing the jobs we asked. We were disciplined, didn’t go chasing after the ball and only had two or three attacks in the whole of the second half.
“The desire to do the right thing, rather than run around and press in the wrong areas, was very pleasing. We invited them on, and once the ball came into an area where we could engage them we did so brilliantly.
“To get three points is fantastic. It will do a massive amount for the lads in the changing room in terms of belief and self-confidence.
“We have to back that up at Stockport on Tuesday. It’s important that we recover properly because that will have taken a lot out of the lads.”
Challinor had no complaints over Sam Finley’s red card. He added: “It’s an act of absolute stupidity. I’d rather talk about the 15 who helped us win the game than the one who almost cost us it. I will deal with that internally and everyone will suffer from it, so it’s been a costly action.”
FC United: Diba, Tonge, Chantler, Kay, Eckersley, Ashworth, Hooper (Gilchrist 50), Sheridan, Johnson (Lowe 71), Thomson, Winter (Greaves 62).
Subs not used: Wolfenden, Williams.
AFC Fylde: Thompson, Holmes, Langley, Williams (Collins 57), Kennedy, C. Hughes, Bond, Finley, Hardy (Baker 62), Dixon (M. Hughes 90), Rowe.
Subs not used: Jennings, Newell.