AFC Fylde 1 Grantham Town 2
The Coasters 23 game unbeaten run came to an end when Grantham Town came to town and fought off a resilient AFC Fylde side that had 18 shots on target in a match where they just couldn’t convert opportunities into goals. The result, accompanied by FC United’s victory at Stamford and Chorley’s point at Whitby means that The Coasters chances of winning the league and going up automatically are now quite slim, but not impossible. If the last two games are both won and both the two teams above The Coasters slip up, then there is still a chance, however unlikely.
Coasters boss Dave Challinor said he was ‘disappointed’ with the performance, and he went on to say that he thinks that the club are effectively out of the title race, saying ‘that’s us done, we’ll try and win the last two games and hope to finish 2nd or 3rd in the table’. The story of the match in truth was very clear, with two obvious defensive lapses in the Fylde ranks costing them the match. Grantham’s Jordan Hempenstall was at the double to secure the three points for the away side, with his second extremely impressive, lobbing Coasters goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe from about 30 yards out and it bounced into the net off the crossbar.
In contrast to Hinchliffe’s goalkeeping woes, Grantham’s keeper Dan Haystead was very impressive in the sticks and kept out many attempts from the likes of Matt Blinkhorn and Michael Barnes. Both managers were full of praise for Haystead, and his manager was clearly delighted with his performance that helped his team win. He said that his team were ‘aiming for a top 10 finish next season’ and he went on to say that ‘we always do better against the top teams, we come under a lot of pressure when playing these top teams and we turn the game on its head and come out with a positive result’.
Grantham actually started the game better than Fylde did and had a lot of the early possession in the first five minutes or so before the Coasters onslaught really took place in terms of chances. It started with a Harry Winter header that went just over the bar after 10 minutes and from that moment on in that first half it looked like the heavens would truly open and that Fylde would go and score 2 or 3. In truth, Grantham keeper Haystead kept them in it with a succession of saves from Blinkhorn’s header, and then Adam Sumner had an effort cleared off the line before another shot came in that clipped the bar and went over. Grantham were living dangerously.
Harry Winter, who actually had a good game despite not finding the back of the net with one of his 4 attempts, nearly gave Fylde the lead after half an hour but his shot went just wide of the post before Grimes had a shot that went wide too. Then came the Grantham goal just after the start of the second half. About 54 seconds into the second period, Hempenstall scored for the away side against the run of play, but instead of rallying on, The Coasters fell further behind 5 minutes later when Hempenstall’s excellent chipped shot nestled in the Fylde goal once again.
Coasters boss Dave Challinor then brought on Sean Cooke and Richie Allen, with the latter getting a consolation goal for The Coasters with a thumping finish that crashed in off the post. Allen looked lively when he came on and was impressive, but could not rescue a point for the home side in the end. Towards the end of the game, Fylde threw everything forward towards the Grantham goal but in reality could not find the equalizer they desperately needed.
It wasn’t to be for The Coasters on the day, and it looks like their title challenge is all but over now and they will have to settle for a play-off place. The next game is on Monday against Skelmersdale away from home where The Coasters will be looking to pick up all three points once again, and perhaps try to start another unbeaten run going into the play-off fixtures in a couple of weeks’ time.
AFC Fylde: Hinchliffe, Hankin (Cooke 63), Sumner, Langley, Russell, Brad Barnes ©, Michael Barnes, Winter (Noon 85), Blinkhorn, Booth (Allen 55), Lloyd; Subs not used: Gregory, Mullen.