The Coasters left it late to clinch a dramatic 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest Women FC on Sunday afternoon at Kellamergh Park.

After Rachel Brown had given the Reds the lead early in the second half, the Coasters fought back to claim all three points with an equaliser through Faye McCoy and a stoppage-time winner from Amy Hughes.

Late heroics sealed a valuable win that returns Fylde Women to the top of the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division, albeit having played more games than Wolves and Derby County directly below them in the table.

The Coasters endured a disappointing afternoon last weekend as they exited the FAWNL Cup at the quarter-final stage, losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool Feds WFC. As for the visitors, Andy Cook’s Nottingham Forest side enjoyed better fortunes as they overcame Alnwick Town to progress to the semi-final of the FAWNL Plate.

When the two sides last met in late September, the Reds took all the spoils with a 1-0 win at Eastwood that condemned the Coasters to their first league defeat of the season.

Fylde joint managers Kim Turner and Danielle Young brought Laura Merrin and Jodie Redgrave into the starting eleven, while the Reds handed a league debut to new signing Charley Docherty. 

In the opening exchanges, the Coasters struggled to get into their passing rhythm against a compact and well-organised Forest side that posed a threat on the counterattack, particularly through Gianna Mitchell up front. 

Fylde shot-stopper Ellie Etheridge had to be alert to the danger early on. From the kick-off, Docherty centred to Mitchell in the box, who laid the ball off to Amy West for a sight of goal, but West’s low shot was gathered by Etheridge.

At the other end, Fylde forward Emily Hollinshead mounted an attack on the left and drilled a shot inches wide of the near post.

In the 12th minute, Docherty controlled a long pass down the right and crossed into the box, but Etheridge collected with a magnificent diving save. 

Mitchell then countered and switched the play to Tamara Wilcock on the right. Under pressure from recovering defender Hannah Forster, Wilcock fired a left-footed shot that Etheridge got down well to save.

On the half-hour mark, Forster bravely competed for the ball in the midfield but took a heavy knock on her ankle when she was fouled some 40 yards from goal. As a result, Forster had to be withdrawn at half-time for Alex Taylor.

As both teams worked hard in search of the breakthrough, it remained all square at the interval.

Half-Time: AFC Fylde Women 0-0 Nottingham Forest WFC

Forest were quick out of the blocks and opened the scoring barely a minute after the restart. Racing down the right-wing, Docherty sent over a cross to the far post for Wilcock, who expertly cut the ball back to Brown, who in turn slammed the ball home from close range.

The Coasters refused to let their heads drop and instead looked to test Emily Batty in the Forest goal at every opportunity.

Merrin lofted a corner kick that found McCoy in a crowded six-yard box, but McCoy failed to keep her volley down as it looped onto the roof of the net, much to her frustration.

Just past the hour mark, Sasha Rowe raced through on the right and took a first-time shot at full stretch, but Batty was equal to her effort.

The hosts then created another chance from a direct free-kick. After Brown had fouled McCoy just outside the area, Merrin sent a dangerous cross to the back post, where Batty had to scramble to her left to turn the ball around the post. 

In the 66th minute, the Coasters equalised in spectacular style when Merrin curled in a pinpoint free-kick that McCoy powerfully headed into the top right corner, beating Forest keeper Batty at full stretch. As McCoy’s header hit the back of the net, the equaliser was greeted with a sense of both joy and relief.

With the pressure building, Fylde brought on Amy Hughes in place of Merrin to provide extra pace down the left channel. After Hughes was tripped on a mazy run, McCoy aimed the resulting free-kick towards the far corner, but her effort was held by Batty. 

As time was running out, Redgrave saw a low shot held well by Batty before Taylor poked a shot agonisingly wide following a goalmouth scramble.

In stoppage time, the Coasters scored the all-important second from a well-worked set-piece. Rowe’s lofted corner kick to the back post was met by Jenna Carroll’s towering header back across goal. After the ball ricocheted around a crowded penalty area, Hughes reacted quickest to hook a shot against the underside of the bar and over the line.

It sparked wild celebrations as the Fylde players raced away to the home dugout to celebrate a memorable winner.

Full-Time: AFC Fylde Women 2-1 Nottingham Forest WFC

Next up, the Coasters take on West Didsbury and Chorlton Women in the semi-final of the Lancashire FA Women’s Challenge Cup on Sunday 20th February. This cup tie will be played at Kellamergh Park, with kick-off at 2.00 pm. 

AFC Fylde Women: Etheridge, Forster (46’ Taylor), Fuller, Carroll, Holbrook (85’ Pottinger), Hollinshead (85’ Bartley), Merrin (71’ Hughes), Redgrave, Rowe, Fryer, McCoy

Unused substitute: Young

Report by Scott Jones