Fylde 17 old albanian 21
With three matches to go, Fylde are 13 points clear of the danger zone, and Blaydon have to win all three by maximum points, namely 15, to have any chance of overhauling Paul Arnold’s side.
That hardly seems feasible and yet there was no feeling of euphoria at the Woodlands on Saturday, only an overwhelming sense of anti-climax.
Fylde were very poor in the first half, and should Arnold’s would-be successor have seen that 40 minutes, he could have had every excuse for screwing up his application form into little pieces there and then.
Three tries in the space of 15 minutes did for Fylde, leaving them trailing 21-7 at half-time.
They did claw 10 points back in the second half – a try, conversion and penalty – but it was not enough, though in terms of territory it was a total reversal of fortunes with Fylde holding complete sway but not quite making it tell to the maximum.
The first half was a write-off from a Fylde standpoint.
They did perk up afterwards with second rower Jack Turley having a standout game, but with no recognised scrum-half – Warren Spragg and Chris Briers filled in at various times – it was always hard work.
Matt Lamprey chugged around to good effect at number eight, while Nick Ashcroft, on his debut as a second-half replacement at lock, showed glimpses of genuine promise.
Connor Wilkinson at times displayed good footwork and an elusive quality in midfield.
Fylde even had the advantage of an early lead after five minutes thanks to a slick move from a lineout.
The attack flowed smoothly after a clean catch by Evan Stewart; Chris Briers joined in the attack, slipping a peach of a pass to Turley, who rounded it off for a copybook touchdown, goaled by Greg Smith.
That was as good as it got for Fylde in the first half.
Old Albanian hit back seven minutes later with an equalising score; a bout of sustained pressure culminated in flanker Harry Bate rounding off several phases to dive over in the corner.
Ben Palmer converted with a fine kick from wide on the left touchline.
On 21 minutes, Old Albanian steered themselves ahead, indifferent defence allowing player-coach James Shanahan to burst through a couple of tackles to claim a try, augmented in front of the posts by Palmer.
At this point Shanahan was running the show almost at will.
It got worse for Fylde on 27 minutes as Palmer tricked his way past Smith’s attempt at a tackle; a big gap loomed which scrum-half Jack Daly exploited as he dashed in for the visitors’ third try. Palmer converted again.
On 33 minutes, skipper Chris Briers was yellow-carded following an apparent high tackle during the course of another dangerous Old Albanian attack.
Old Albanian looked certain to score a fourth, bonus point try as the Fylde defence was sliced open again, but flanker Nicholas Stevens dropped the ball with the line yawning just in front of him.
The opening 15 minutes of saw plenty of intense sparring, but little in the way of tryscoring chances for either side.
Fylde had the glimmer of an opening, but Briers wasted it with a careless pass as he latched to Smith’s chip ahead.
The home side made a much-needed breakthrough on 56 minutes.
They pushed forward with a rolling maul down the right flank before switching the line of attack.
The Old Albanian defence was in some state of retreat as they were penalised. Fylde took advantage of the free ball, piling forward as they edged closer to the line with Stewart finishing off the move and Smith converting.
Tom Carleton, Briers and Smith all sniped dangerously as the home side sought to get the equalising try and goal, moving the ball well.
Fylde were enjoyin all the territory and testing the Old Albanian defence to the full, but the visitors were still holding firm, Briers being the next player to have his attacking intent thwarted.
Wilkinson was also contributing some darting, jinking runs that had Old Albanian worried.
Turley tried to pounce on a loose ball, but just misjudged it as he tried to kick ahead, another let-off for Old Albanian.
On 77 minutes, Fylde opted for the conservative option of kicking for goal with a penalty, duly landed by Smith.
The explanation after the match was that Fylde were trying for the win rather than parity in the hope that they would get a try after Smith’s kick.
It was not to be as Fylde had to be content with a single losing bonus point.
But what came over most obviously is that the new man, whoever he may be, will have a tall order to try and galvanise the side and prevent another disappointing season.
Fylde: Carleton; Armstrong, Briers, Wilkinson, Brennand; Smith, Spragg; Wild, Burtonwood, Lewis, Griffiths, Turley, Vernon, Stewart, Lamprey. Replacements: Joyner, Loney, Harrison, Bailey, Ashcroft.