STOCKPORT COUNTY 0 AFC FYLDE 4: Full report and reaction
Two goals from Dion Charles helped Fylde to strengthen their grip on a top-three place in Vanarama National North with an emphatic victory at Stockport.
Coasters captain Tom Hannigan headed the visitors into an early lead before Charles netted a quickfire double shortly after the break.
Danny Rowe secured the points with eight minutes to play, when he fired home to move Fylde level on points with second-placed North Ferriby United, whose match at Lowestoft was among four in the league to be postponed as Storm Katie took its toll further south.
Fylde boss Dave Challinor knows all about bad weather this Easter and named the same team that lined up in Saturday’s home game with Bradford Park Avenue which was abandoned after barely half an hour.
Fylde kicked off on the front foot and James Hardy broke into the box, but his effort was blocked and Sam Finley was well over with his follow-up attempt from 25 yards.
Brad Barnes was next to try his luck from distance but his strike was deflected around the post and the resulting corner brought about the opening goal.
Hardy whipped the ball in and there was captain Hannigan to head home from close range after just seven minutes.
The visitors were inches away from doubling the lead moments later but Matty Hughes’ fierce drive from 10 yards was charged down by the Stockport defence.
Fylde really were the side in the ascendancy and Charles was close to turning home Finley’s first-time effort at the back post shortly before the 15- minute mark.
John Marsden fashioned the hosts’ first real opportunity when he unleashed a vicious volley from 20 yards that flew narrowly wide of the right post.
The Coasters continued to push for a second and Rowe stung the palms of Dean Henderson when he cut in from the left a smashed a powerful effort at the Stockport stopper.
Charles almost put Fylde further ahead on 28 minutes but his side-footed strike from the right of the area was just the wrong side of the post and nestled in the side netting.
The visitors had the ball in the net four minutes later, when Rowe tucked away Finley’s cute through-ball, but the linesman’s flag came to County’s rescue.
Fylde finished the half strongly, though the second goal was proving elusive as the match reached the halfway point.
That soon changed just six minutes after the restart and Fylde deservedly doubled their advantage.
Charles cut in from the right and curled a sublime left-footed strike into the far top corner of the goal.
Just four minutes later it was three. A misplaced header from Paul Connolly caught out his keeper Henderson.
Rowe raced through and hit the post from a tight angle, Charles gleefully lapping up the rebound.
The Coasters were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position 20 yards from goal but Rowe fired the set-piece straight into the Stockport wall as the visitors searched for a fourth goal.
The game was becoming an increasingly one-sided affair, with the Coasters knocking the ball around to a chorus of cheers from the travelling fans.
Top scorer Rowe got himself in on the act with eight minutes to play, when he beat his man on the edge of the box and made space to fire a low, left-footed strike into the far corner.
That was Fylde’s cue to introduce midfielder Matt Dudley, registered just ahead of last Thursday’s deadline, for his debut.
Stockport created a rare opportunity of their own moments later, when full-back Marcus Poscha found himself in space at the back post but keeper Ben Hinchliffe was quickly out to smother.
Fylde saw out the closing stages with ease as they extended the unbeaten run to six in the National League North.
The victory moved Fylde five points clear of fourth-placed Harrogate, who lost 3-1 at Bradford PA, though Solihull Moors remain 12 points clear at the top after a 4-1 home defeat of bottom club Corby.
Manager Dave Challinor was overjoyed at his Fylde side’s performance against one of his former clubs.
Challinor said: “The scoreline certainly reflected the game and we started the match unbelievably well.
“We knew that we had an advantage, having only played 30 minutes on Saturday, and Stockport had a tough game at North Ferriby.
We had to make sure that counted and we did that by scoring early.
“The game could have been over inside 15 minutes with the chances that we had.
“We got a little bit complacent towards the end of the first half but in the second half we got the goals that the performance deserved.
It’s only worth three points but it’s a massive win for us.
“Other teams around dropped points over Easter, so this was a chance for us to make up some ground and we did that emphatically.
The first goal was important – when you look at the statistics, the team that scores first more often than not wins the game.”
But it was the 90-minute effort which pleased the Fylde boss most.
He added: “ We got off on the front foot and maintained that for the whole game.
I don’t think we have managed to stay at that level in a game all season, so that was very pleasing.
“The two goals after the break killed the game and we thoroughly deserved the victory.”
Fylde: Hinchliffe, C Hughes, Sumner, Langley, |Hannigan, Hardy, Barnes, Finley, Charles (Lloyd 73), M Hughes (Dudley 83), Rowe.