Nantwich Town 3 AFC Fylde 3
A fantastic second-half comeback saw AFC Fylde earn a share of the spoils at the Weaver Stadium.
Nantwich took a three-goal lead early into the second half only for the Coasters to hit back in the final half-hour with goals from Danny Rowe, Sam Finley and Matt Blinkhorn.
Fylde looked to find Brendon Daniels at every opportunity in the early stages but the left winger was marshalled well by Nantwich full-back Curtis Jones.
The hosts broke the deadlock after just seven minutes, when Matt Bell’s through-ball broke kindly to frontman Steve Jones 15 yards from goal and he rifled high into the net.
Coasters midfielder James Hardy looked to make immediate amends when he skipped into the area but his low cross from the byeline was cleared.
Winger Daniels had an opportunity with a free-kick from 30 yards but his left-footed effort lacked any real purchase and was easily claimed by keeper Dave Parton.
Baker raced on to a loose ball on the edge of the hosts’ area moments later but could only side-foot wide.
The visitors were starting to turn the screw as the half reached its midpoint, with Dom Collins just over the top with a strong header.
Trialist Jason Gilchrist had a shout for a penalty when he latched on to Callum Harris’ defence-splitting pass however the referee waved away the former Burnley striker’s appeals.
James Hardy looked lively for the visitors and was close with a Ronaldo-esque flick shortly before the half-hour.
Fylde fashioned their best opportunity so far when Daniels whipped a delightful cross on to the Dabbers’ penalty spot but a stretching Gilchrist could only nod into the goalkeepers grateful hands.
Jones doubled the hosts’ advantage on the stroke of half-time against the run of play. Andy Bond slipped on the wet surface and Jones found himself clean through to round keeper Paul White and slot the ball into the gaping goal.
Nantwich took just three second-half minutes to add a third goal in spectacular fashion, winger Jonny Kapend cutting in from the right and lashing the ball high past a helpless White.
The keeper redeemed himself with an impressive double save moments later, firstly denying Jones from 12 yards and then blocking from substitute Sam Dodd in the resulting melee.
Ten minutes into the half, White brought down Jones when he rushed out to challenge the hitman five yards outside his box, but he was spared punishment in true pre-season friendly style.
Challinor made six changes on the hour but it was half-time substitute Matt Blinkhorn who had the next opportunity, swiping a loose ball high and wide.
There was to be something for the visiting fans to smile about when sub Rowe, on the pitch for less than five minutes, cut in from the left and lashed the ball across goal and into the far corner of the net – stunning first goal of pre-season for last year’s top scorer.
Fylde reduced the deficit further within five minutes. Midfielder Sam Finley dispossessed the Nantwich defence and danced through to coolly slide the ball past Parton.
With 15 minutes left, Rowe picked out Matty Hughes in the area but his weak header drifted wide.
The comeback was complete seconds later, when Blinkhorn tapped home from eight yards after Rowe’s powerful free-kick fell at his feet.
The lively Finley then spun his marker and unleashed a fierce drive as the visitors pressed for a winner.
The chances continued to come for the Coasters as Dixon galloped between the centre-halves but his scuffed strike gave Parton a comfortable save. The keeper also had his hands stung by Rowe before the final whistle.
Fylde manager Dave Challinor said: “Where do I start! Ultimately we showed good character to come back into the game which was pleasing.
“I thought we played OK in the first half but were too deep in terms of where we were passing.
“We said at half-time, ‘Don’t get bogged down trying to play all the time’. It can be difficult when you have lads who weren’t here last year.
“Everything was probably 20, 30 yards deeper we wanted. When you are playing on the edge of your box and make a mistake, you concede a goal every time.
“They were probably the only three real chances they’ve had and they’ve scored three goals.
“We then made the changes which were scheduled after an hour, which puts lads out there who know and understand how we want to play because they’ve been with us a while. All of a sudden we were on the front foot.
“The first goal changed it and we really were camped in the Nantwich half in the second half. We moved the ball well and created other opportunities that we could have stuck away.
“Now is the time we really need to knuckle down and look forward to where we’re going to be in terms of the start of the season. We’re still a bit short of where we want the squad to be, especially in terms of the back four and goalkeeper. Hopefully we can rectify that within the week.”
Fylde: White, Holmes (C.Hughes 60), Bond, Collins (Sumner 60), Crainey, Baker (Finley 60), Hardy (M.Hughes 60), Harris (Dixon 46), Bell-Baggie (Blinkhorn 46), Daniels (Dudley 60), Gilchrist (Rowe); Not used: Howell, Wynee.
Nantwich: Parton, Jones, Touray, Harrison (Dodd 49), Bailey, Bell, Kapend (Stair 86), Hall (Smith 63), Smith (Gordon 29), Jones, Flint (Riley 39); Not used: Stair, Jones, Sanders.