AF Fylde 2, Oxford City 1
Fylde remain five points clear at the top of Vanarama Conference North after this decent performance, though less memorable than their 8-1 win over the same opponents in September.
Two goals in four second-half minutes were enough to down an Oxford side who were kept in the game by an inspired goalkeeping performance.
Joe Booth headed in the first just after the hour mark, then Richie Allen doubled the advantage with a powerful shot from six yards as the Coasters recorded their ninth successive win, stretching their unbeaten run to 13, although Oxford pulled one back four minutes from time.
Dave Challinor fielded the same side that won at Solihull Moors last Tuesday and they dominated the first half.
Both Josh Wilson and Allen headed a Danny Lloyd crosses wide of the mark before Allen saw another attempt tipped around the post by inspired Spanish keeper Salvo De La Cruz, all inside the first 10 minutes.
The Oxford stopper then denied Allen twice more, diverting his efforts round the post.
On 16 minutes, Danny Rowe’s attempted overhead kick was cleared as far as Wilson on the edge of the box and his powerful drive was tipped over the crossbar by De La Cruz.
A minute later it was Rowe’s turn to shoot as he surged into the six-yard box but he couldn’t beat the outstanding keeper from point-blank range.
Mid way through the half the visitors settled, and Javier Rodriguez could have done better with a strike that Ben Hinchliffe saved comfortably.
At the other end, De La Cruz continued to look unbeatable as he calmly stopped three more Fylde efforts before the break, the first from Rowe and two from Lloyd. And so it remained 0-0 at half-time, in stark contrast to the previous meeting, which Fylde led 6-1 at the break.
Fylde were frustrated at not scoring at least once in the first period and it was Oxford who started the second half brighter. Adi Yussuf forced a decent stop from Hinchliffe two minutes in, and five minutes later the keeper had to stretch to save Declan Benjamin’s low shot. Fylde were back on top by the hour-mark as De Le Cruz again denied Allen.
The keeper was finally beaten on 62 minutes, when an excellent crossfield ball from Lloyd found Allen out wide and his looping cross was met by Booth, who raced into the six-yard box to head home.
And it was soon 2-0 as Allen to fired a powerful left-footed strike into the roof of the net from substitute Mike Barnes’ cross.
De La Cruz remained defiant, denying both Rowe and Wilson a third Fylde goal, and his side set up an interesting final few minutes when Yussuf was brought down 25 yards out and Tom Winters curled the free-kick over the wall and into the Fylde net.
Yussuf almost grabbed an unlikely equaliser deep in stoppage time but Hinchliffe produced a fine save to deny the striker.
“We expected a tough game and we got that. Oxford have been doing well.
“We’ve made it more difficult for ourselves really because at 2-0 we had chances to make it three, four or even five, but we’ve allowed them to get back into it and give us a tricky last five or six minutes.
“We had 26 shots and only scored two goals. We didn’t have the quality in terms of finishing our chances and their goalkeeper was very good.
“Lloydy had a chance just before half-time, and if that had gone in we were probably looking at a different second half.
“We’ve been 2-0 up in a fair few games this season and either managed to get another goal or hang on for a win, and that was the case today. Results will be more important than performances as we move towards the end of the season.
“Josh Langley got man of the match and he’s been fantastic all season. I don’t think I could point out a game where he’s let his levels drop and he’s got a chance of becoming a top, top defender. But the whole defence has obviously done superbly because we’ve conceded the fewest goals in the league.”
Fylde make a third attempt to stage their FA Trophy second-round tie at home to Telford on Tuesday night (7.45pm), though the match could be switched to Telford if Kellamergh Park is unfit.