AFC Fylde boss Dave Challinor suffered a disappointing return to his former club as the Coasters slipped to a 4-1 defeat at Tranmere Rovers.
Doubles from Richie Sutton and Connor Jennings sealed Fylde’s fate and although Jonny Smith pulled one back for Fylde, the damage was already done for Challinor’s side who face Tranmere in the reverse fixture on New Year’s Day.
The Coasters settled into their stride quickly on the Wirral and a clever dummy from leading marksman Danny Rowe inside the area handed Serhat Tasdemir a chance to take aim, however his first-time effort was deflected over the bar.
Fylde stopper Jay Lynch had to be on his toes shortly after the ten minute mark to turn Ollie Norburn’s low drive around the post in an entertaining start to the match. Norburn again went close a moment later, nodding narrowly wide at the near post having been picked out by Adam Buxton.
Tranmere full-back Eddie Clarke gifted Fylde with a glorious goalscoring opportunity when his wayward header inside his own box landed at the feet of Jonny Smith, although the winger could only find the goalkeeper’s arms with his effort.
The Coasters were enjoying a decent spell of possession and a delicious cross from Jordan Richards was almost turned home at the back post by the unlikely figure of Zaine Francis-Angol.
The Tranmere backline opened up for 17-year-old winger Tasdemir on the half-hour however he couldn’t capitalise and his bending effort from 20 yards was well wide of the right-hand post.
The deadlock was broken perhaps against the run of play as the hosts took the lead. Ollie Banks’ corner was flicked on by James Norwood towards the back post to where the lurking Richie Sutton was allowed space and he obligingly lashed the ball home.
The goal kicked Rovers into gear and Norburn looked to add an immediate second, testing Lynch with a wicked long range strike.
However, the second did arrive a moment later as defender Sutton prodded another home. Although Lynch had pulled off a fantastic reaction save to once again deny Norburn, the ball fell invitingly at the feet of Sutton who poked home the easiest of tap ins.
Fylde responded with a killer chance when Rowe fired goalwards from 12 yards however man of the moment Sutton was, once again, in the right place, this time to clear off the line with the goalkeeper beaten.
The second-half was always going to be an uphill struggle for the visitors and Smith attempted to ease the task, however his long distance strike found Row Z, as did Rowe’s effort seconds later.
Their efforts proved to be in vain as Tranmere extended their lead just eight minutes after the restart. Andy Cook was allowed to turn on the edge of the area and the ball broke through to Connor Jennings who rifled a strike into the bottom corner.
Despite the scoreline, it was far from one-way traffic and Scott Davies did fantastically well to tip over Smith’s curling effort from the right of the box.
And it was Smith that eventually pulled one back for Fylde. Richards’ low ball in from the right fell to substitute Jack Muldoon who laid the ball off for Smith to curl into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
There should have been another for the visitors soon after when McNulty inexplicably headed straight into the path of Smith on the six yard line however indecisiveness between the winger and Rowe saw the opportunity spurned.
No sooner were Fylde starting to comeback into the contest, Jennings sealed the points for the hosts. After some penalty box pinball, the ball was teed up for Jennings on the 18 yard line and the winger needed no second invitation to shoot and found the bottom corner with a rasping drive.
Rowe could have reduced the deficit with 15 minutes to go when he connected beautifully with Montrose’s cut back however the crossbar took the brunt of the punishment as the ball bounced clear.
The frontman forced a smart save from Davies as the clock wound down and almost had his goal with a powerful free-kick that whistled past the post, but it just wasn’t to be his or Fylde day.
Tranmere: Davies, Buxton, Sutton, McNulty, Cook (McDonagh 85), Norwood, Jennings, Norburn, Mottley-Henry (Gumbs 81), Clarke, Banks (Hughes 70).
Subs not used: Cole, Pilling.
AFC Fylde: Lynch, Richards, Tunnicliffe, Edmundson, Grand, Francis-Angol, Montrose, J Taylor (Bond 75), Smith (McCready 75), Tasdemir (Muldoon 58), Rowe.
Subs not used: Blinkhorn, Burke.
Att: 6,669 (164)
Ref: Simon Barrow