The Coasters’ historic FA Youth Cup run is over, as Conrad Prendergast’s side were narrowly defeated 2-0 by Chelsea at The Kingsmeadow Stadium on Friday afternoon.
A resilient Fylde outfit frustrated the hosts for the opening 45 minutes, with Coasters number one Aaron Lancaster making an array of spectacular stops. Fylde’s defence was eventually undone, though, as two well-taken second-half finishes from Bryan Fiabema and Ben Elliott sealed the Blues’ progression into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Conrad Prendergast made three changes to the side that ran out 3-2 winners at Cambridge United in the previous round, this time opting for a deep 5-3-2 formation in the hope of diminishing the opponents’ attacking prowess.
Moments before kick off, there was a touching tribute for Luke Bennett, as a framed Chelsea shirt sporting ‘Bennett 11’ was gifted to Fylde’s Academy Manager, Chris Ganner to the applause of everybody within the ground.
The game began with the hosts on the front foot, zipping the ball from left to right on what was an immaculate Kingsmeadow pitch. Fylde, organised and diligent, made their game plan known early doors, dropping into a deep low block, successfully limiting the Blues to minimal openings.
Aaron Lancaster made the first of several important saves on nine minutes, getting down well to a low drive by Bryan Fiabema.
The stopper was called into an action again just two minute later, emphatically beating away a Livramento volley before Peart-Harris headed the rebound wide.
Chelsea were gifted a glorious chance to break the deadlock on 23 minutes, Jones colliding with Lancaster who chose to come off his line, but Fiabema failed to hit the target when it looked harder to miss.
The remainder of the half continued in similar fashion, the visitors sitting back and soaking up waves of Chelsea pressure, but the hosts – who had beaten Barnsley 8-1 in the third round – were misfiring.
That was until Bashir Humphreys found space at the back post, powering a header that looked destined to bulge the back of the net, but to the astonishment of everybody, Lancaster pulled off a Gordon Banks-esque save that earned the applause of everybody within the ground.
HALF TIME – Chelsea 0-0 AFC Fylde
“More of the same” were the instructions given by Prendergast as the players had their half-time oranges, but the gameplan went out the window just two minutes into the second half.
Fiabema, who had seen multiple efforts denied, finally got a goal to show for his endeavour. An inviting Vale cross found the tall striker inside the area, who nodded past Lancaster to give his side the lead.
Fylde’s number one pulled off another wonderful save with 55 minutes on the clock, diverting Bate’s long-range drive over his crossbar.
Chelsea’s perpetual efforts were rewarded with the perfect chance to extend their advantage, Fylde defender Jones bringing down Peart-Harris inside the box, to which the referee pointed straight to the spot.
Skipper, Bate, stepped up and dragged his penalty wide of the target, letting Fylde off the hook.
That relief lasted just 8 minutes, though, as Ben Elliott produced a moment of magic, firing in at the near post after picking up Vale’s clever pass.
Both teams made several changes as the game neared an end, Fylde throwing on some attacking players in their final push for a goal.
The moment we were all hoping for almost arrived in the final minute of added time, Adegoke misjudging a looping cross under pressure from Walder, but the ball hit the wrong side of the post and bounced to safety despite claims of it crossing the line.
Disappointed faces upon the full-time whistle epitomised the belief that Fylde had throughout this game; and a group that had defied the odds to reach the fourth round of the most prestigious youth competition in the country and wanted more.
The magical run is officially over, but the memories will remain.
FULL TIME – Chelsea 2-0 AFC Fylde