AFC FYLDE 0 -0 Stockport County
AFC Fylde will be rueing late missed chances, on an afternoon where they couldn’t make the home advantage count.
The explosive pace of Darren Stephenson was on show within the opening exchanges, as a cross to the near post was almost turned in after his sprint into the box.
Just two minutes later, Stephenson was again causing problems, after he was slid through on goal. The striker rounded Jay Lynch, but his effort lacked conviction and bounced off of the outside of the post and wide.
The weather, although not as bad as Tuesday night’s windy tie, was still a challenge. When combined with a heavy pitch caused by rain, it made for a game where the team’s struggled for fluency.
Stockport, however, made the most of it and continued to find joy down the right-hand side, with Thomas and Minihan.
Once again Stephenson was found unmarked, this time turning a reaction effort goalwards – which Lynch did very well to stop. The flag on the sideline was up, but it was indicative of the afternoon so far for the visitors.
With the Fylde attackers not having too much joy, often shut out by Palmer and Stott, it was an unlikely source that the first chance came from.
Neill Byrne burst out of defence, beating two players, only to be bought down inside the box. Referee Marc Edwards wasn’t interested though, and waved play on, much to Byrne’s bemusement.
This briefly rallied the Coasters, as Haughton teed up Hardy for a long-range effort – but the returning wingers’ strike was palmed away comfortably by Hinchcliffe.
County were undeterred however and continued in their bullish form, with Walker swinging in a free-kick which Adam Thomas made a faint connection with, however, Lynch was able to stop it.
Arlen Birch had received medical treatment towards the end of the half and was replaced at the interval by Timi Odusina.
The second half continued in much the same fashion, with the rain beginning to lash down ferociously.
It took ten minutes for Fylde to make an impact, as Haughton and Hardy combined once again – this time Hardy’s low effort being nudged wide, before Tasdemir had an effort into the side netting.
The Hatters continued to ask questions on a weathered surface, as Keane found himself played through on goal, but blazed his effort over.
The game continued in scrappy circumstances, with passes overhit, and first touches being found lacking.
However, 20 minutes from time, Niall Bell raced through on goal and found himself one-on-one with Jay Lynch. Bell rushed his effort though, and Lynch held firm to deny him.
Rowe, who had been limited throughout the game, sent a speculative shot wide from 30 yards, which summed up a tough afternoon for him.
The Coasters were then pinned back once again, and should have been punished, as Bell got the better of Byrne, and raced towards Lynch yet again.
This time, Bell’s effort did beat Lynch, but also the post, as he guided it just too much to his right.
The idea that Fylde could yet win the game seemed unlikely, until the introduction of Alex Reid and Danny Philliskirk.
The two combined, with Reid down the left feeding in Philliskirk, who in turn cut it back to the onrushing Crawford.
It seemed to all the world that Crawford would fire home, however, he scuffed his effort into the pitch, and over the bar.
Matty Warburton’s introduction gave life to the County frontline, as he fired an effort at Lynch from distance, but it was again kept out.
One final chance fell for the Coasters, as Nick Haughton sent a searching ball in front of Alex Reid just in front of the six-yard box.
Reid latched onto the pass but was charged down by former Coasters keep Hinchcliffe, rescuing his side a clean sheet – although the flag on the far side was up.
The whistle finally went, meaning that it would all have to be settled at Edgeley Park next weekend.
“We knew it was going to be difficult, not just because of positions, the weather made it much more difficult for both teams,” said Manager Dave Challinor.
“Before the game, if you’d have offered me a clean sheet, I’d have taken it. If before the game, I’d have been offered to still be potentially in the tie I’d have taken it.”
“Because the way the weather was, that could have had a serious impact on the game and ultimately you can end up losing goals as a result of what the wind was.”
“We’re still in it, it could have been a whole different outcome. At both ends, there have been chances that stand out, but everything to play for.”
Tickets for the all-important, decisive second leg are available from Stockport’s website, whilst £10 travel is now available.