AFC Fylde crashed out of the FA Trophy away to Division One North’s Curzon Ashton on Saturday after a 2-1 defeat at the Tameside Stadium.
Jordan Wright capitalised on a poor defensive clearance to give the home side the lead on 20 minutes, but Brad Barnes headed home a controversial equaliser 13 minutes later which set up a tasty second half.
And tasty it was as within seconds of the restart, Wright added his second before the remainder of the match saw everything from penalties not given, a disallowed goal and frustration boiling over.
Having never reached the First Round Proper of this competition, this was the perfect opportunity for Dave Challinor’s side to amend that stat against lower-league opposition, but it was Curzon who began stronger against a depleted Fylde side.
With Dave Hankin added alongside Matty Blinkhorn and Jack Dorney to Fylde’s injury list, Challinor made three changes to the side that beat Mossley in midweek, starting Danny Lloyd and Caspar Hughes and moving Luke Denson to the right back position.
Inside the third minute, Matthew Warburton received a fine cross-field ball from Sam Walker and almost got a shot on goal but some good defending meant he was pushed wide and had to be happy with just a corner.
Ryan Brooke curled a shot wide before Warburton’s cross almost found the back post soon after before Fylde even got a look in on the Curzon goal.
When they did, it was Lloyd who was very unlucky to see his shot smack the post and return back into play after being fed by Adam Sumner’s free kick in a move straight off the training ground which would have been a carbon copy of the goal he scored against Nantwich Town last week.
Fylde were left to rue that missed chance even more as, two minutes later, Wright netted his first. A poor clearance from Fylde allowed Wright the chance to pounce on the loose ball and turn the ball into goal.
Curzon should have doubled that lead on 29 minutes after a fantastic team move which split the Fylde defence apart, but Brooke’s header was off target just six yards out.
Disaster struck again for the visitors two minutes later when Michael Barnes went down holding his hamstring and had to be replaced by Ryan Charnley, but despite that set-back, the scores were level on 33 minutes.
However, it was a controversial goal at that. Brad Barnes connected with a well driven corner and the power of it seemed to send goalkeeper Anthony Thompson over his line as he grasped it and the linesman ruled it had crossed the line.
It was all to play for as the players returned for the second half but within seconds, Curzon had retained their lead through Wright’s second.
A long ball from deep forced Ben Hinchliffe to come way off his line to clear, but his clearance hit Warburton and fell kindly for Wright who struck from 35 yards out into an empty net.
Curzon were doing everything right to frustrate Fylde and when Lloyd was bundled over inside their area, the referee decided to get in on the act and give the home side a free kick rather than a stonewall penalty on 54 minutes.
Lloyd then won a free kick 22 yards out from goal but Denson was unable to really test Thompson, who gathered his shot comfortably with 65 minutes gone.
Soon after, Ryan Watson almost put the game to bed with a speculative effort from long range but Hinchliffe had to be at full stretch to push it round the post for a corner.
With 19 minutes left to play, The Coasters thought they had scored another equaliser when Harry Winter headed in Sumner’s free kick at the back post but, somehow, the linesman on the far side deemed Winter had strayed offside and the goal didn’t stand.
From then on the game became scrappy as neither side never looked like seriously troubling the opposition goalkeeper.
Then, in stoppage time, Matty Hughes was lucky to receive just a ticking off when Brooke stood up from his tackle claiming to have been stamped on by the Fylde captain, resulting in an altercation between seven or eight players from each side.
Challinor was clearly unhappy with his sides performance at full time as he felt they didn’t do enough throughout the game to claim any sort of result, despite big decisions going against his team.
“I thought it was definitely a penalty” he said. “The referees obviously blown his whistle, seen or thought ‘oh that’s in the box’ and given it the other way. Maybe he thought that he handed him off but for me it was a definite penalty.
“The disallowed goal is a tough one to judge. We videoed the game so we’ll have a look at it. To be offside from a free kick that close to goal seems debateable.
“That doesn’t take away from the fact that I don’t think we deserved anything from the game, but that’s by-the-by.
“To be fair to Curzon, I thought they worked their socks off and matched us up and we just didn’t have enough imagination or creativity and the opportunities we did have came from set pieces.
“We’re obviously having a tough time at the minute but I said last week that our main hope was to have bodies in and available for our next league game on Saturday.”
That league game is against Frickley Athletic at Kellemargh Park, but before that is a Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy tie against Daisy Hill, also at home, on Tuesday night.
AFC Fylde: Hinchliffe, Denson, Sumner, M. Hughes (C), Russell, C. Hughes (Booth 88), B. Barnes, Winter, Winslade (Duffield 59), M. Barnes (Charnley 32), Lloyd; Subs not used: Gregory, Mullen.