AFC Fylde battled their way to the summit of the Vanarama Conference North thanks to a narrow victory in a Boxing Day classic between two sides vying for promotion.
Pre-match leaders Barrow were the visitors and it took Richie Allen’s penalty nine minutes from times to separate the top two after Barrow had pegged the scores back twice in the second half.
Joe Booth scored first for the hosts 90 seconds after the break before Andy Cook levelled. But within a minute Danny Lloyd smashed in Fylde’s second but that was cancelled out five minutes later by Simon Grand.
But after Allen was brought down by Andy McWilliams, he stepped up to send Tony McMillan the wrong way and seal all three points for The Coasters.
Fylde suffered a slight set back minutes before kick off as Josh Wilson, in what would have been his first game since signing permanently for The Coasters earlier this week, pulled up with an injury meaning Ulverston-born Liam Tomsett was promoted from the bench to the starting 11.
Thankfully it didn’t seem to affect Fylde’s game plan as they fended off the visitors’ chances and created a number of their own throughout the first period.
Former Barrow loanee Danny Rowe headed Booth’s cross narrowly wide early on before Lloyd forced McMillan into a fine save to turn his shot around his post on 18 minutes.
However, a minute later Jason Walker had a chance to open the scoring for Barrow but curled a 25 yard free kick over the wall and wide of the post.
Lloyd was causing a number of problems on Barrow’s right hand side and was unlucky to see a shot go narrowly wide on 24 minutes. Four minutes later a thunderous strike from full back Adam Sumner was heading for the top corner but a Barrow defender managed to get his leg to the shot and send it over his bar for a Fylde corner.
Alex-Ray Harvey saw Ben Hinchliffe tip his long-range effort over the bar at full stretch with half an hour gone before Fylde enjoyed another good spell as the half came to the close. Tomsett fired high and wide from a corner before Allen was played through only to see his shot palmed away by McMillan.
As it stood Barrow remained top at half time and it was all to play for in the second period. The half began fiercely and the visitors could have taken the lead in the first minute but Hinchliffe got his hands on Walker’s header to deny the Barrow striker.
And in the next attack, Fylde broke with Lloyd who fed the ball to Rowe and he was able to round his man on the byline and send the ball across the six yard box for Booth to slide in and score the opening goal less than two minutes after the restart.
Booth then tried his luck six minutes later when he won the ball on half way and saw McMillan off his line. He sent an ambitious lob over the defence towards goal but McMillan was able to track back and collect the ball inside his six yard box to stop any embarrassment.
Barrow thought they had equalised on 56 minutes when Harvey headed into the Fylde net but the assistant referee had already raised his flag to call him offside.
An excellent spell ensued for the visitors as Johnny Gorman and Harvey again failed to trouble the Fylde keeper but on 69 minutes they had the goal they were pressing for when Cook was played through and he shot past Hinchliffe.
But within seconds Fylde had retaken the lead, and first place in the table, when they broke forward with Lloyd who was able to surge on and fire into the top right corner from a tight angle.
A minute later Barrow should have equalised again when Cook sent a Walker drag-back high over the bar but they did hit back on 76 minutes. Harvey’s initial shot was too hot for Hinchliffe to handle and Grand was able to race in unopposed to turn the rebound into the back of the net and send Barrow top again.
But there was still another twist in the tale as five minutes later Allen was brought down by McWilliams as he stretched to get on the end of Lloyd’s low cross and referee Jonathan Hunt awarded the home side a penalty which Allen duly stepped up to score.
There were no more goals despite the efforts of the visitors late on and Fylde held out for a memorable victory and can sit proudly at the top of the table at the half way stage of the season.
AFC Fylde: Hinchliffe, Denson, Sumner, Langley, Hannigan, B. Barnes (C), Booth, Tomsett (Potts 76), Rowe, Lloyd, Allen; Subs not used: Dootson, Mullen, Bent, Charles.
GOALS: Joe Booth (47), Danny Lloyd (70), Richie Allen (81 pen)
YELLOW: Josh Langley (57), Danny Lloyd (89), Danny Rowe (90)
Barrow: McMillan, Burns, McWilliams, Lacey, Livesey, Grand (C), Harvey, Sheridan (Ellison 61), Walker, Cook, Reid (Gorman 46); Subs not used: Cowperthwaite, Willis, Pritchard.
GOALS: Andy Cook (69), Simon Grand (75)
YELLOW: Paddy Lacey (63), Danny Livesey (80)
MOM: Danny Rowe
REFEREE: Mr Jonathan Hunt