AFC Fylde came back from behind twice to see off a dogged Kettering Town outfit on Wednesday evening at Mill Farm. Danny Philliskirk and Jordan Hulme cancelled out a Connor Kennedy strike and Decarrey Sheriff penalty. It was the in-form Nick Haughton that had the last laugh, though, beating Adam Collin with a signature curling effort on 89 minutes to seal all three points for the hosts.
AFC Fylde’s return to league action was long-awaited, with 18 days separating them from their last league outing at Gateshead. Since then, Bentley’s side have featured in two rounds of the FA Cup, beating Farsley Celtic and Altrincham, and extending their winning streak to six consecutive games.
This was also AFC Fylde’s first fixture without manager Jim Bentley present. It was announced on Sunday evening that Bentley has entered a period of self-isolation ahead of his operation on November, 3rd. As a result, managerial duties have been left in the hands of assistant manager, Nick Chadwick, and it was he who made the decision to make two changes to the team that started in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Altrincham. New loan signing, Jack Sanders, replaced the injured Nathan Pond, and Junior Mondal came in for Luke Burgess, who was recalled by his parent club, Salford City, on Tuesday evening.
The National League North fixture began in a frantic manner, with AFC Fylde putting the visitors under immediate pressure.
Junior Mondal, on his return to the team, was handed the first opportunity of the game. With one minute on the clock, some good play down the left wing saw Conlan and Tollitt combine, before a low cross found an unmarked Mondal in the six yard box. The young winger’s effort drew a good save by Adam Collin in between the Kettering sticks.
After five minutes, the visitors replied. The lively Josh Oyinsan lead the line on the night, and he managed to latch onto a long, hopeful goal-kick and get a shot away, only to see it dribble harmlessly wide of Chris Neal’s post.
Next to try his luck was experienced midfielder, David Perkins, who tried an ambitious 30-yard volley after 6 minutes, but again it failed to trouble the goalkeeper.
Despite the challenging weather conditions, the tempo of the game never dropped.
Ten minutes in, and it was Haughton who nearly broke the deadlock – his left-footed effort curling a yard over the crossbar.
On twenty-five minutes Haughton was at it again, this time pulling the trigger from a free-kick 30 yards out. His effort beat the wall, but didn’t dip in time to test the goalkeeper.
Then came the first goal of the game, and it was the visitors who took the lead against the run of play. On the half-hour mark, Kettering’s number eight, Connor Kennedy, pushed the ball out of his feet and unleashed a powerful effort at goal. His strike swerved away from Neal and found the back of the net.
Despite AFC Fylde’s domination after the goal, The Coasters failed to carve out any clear-cut opportunities, and headed in at half-time trailing by one goal to nil.
Chadwick’s words at half-time were clear : “Keep the tempo up, and we will get our rewards.” Those words were fresh in the players’ minds as the second half kicked off, evident in the way that The Coasters began to get bodies forward in search of an equaliser.
The first big moment came on 60 minutes, when Kurt Willoughby went down after a late challenge in the box, but to the outrage of The Coasters staff, Willoughby was penalised for simulation and booked.
After 65 minutes, the goal that Fylde had been looking for arrived. It was courtesy of Danny Philliskirk, who bagged his first goal of the season. Some good play on the right-hand side by Haughton released Philliskirk in the penalty area, and his calm finish left Collin with no chance.
AFC Fylde nearly got their noses in front with 69 minutes gone, and it was Ben Tolliit who nearly provided it. Some fast counter-attacking football gave Tollitt the chance to get a shot away, but as was a recurring theme throughout the night, Collin pulled off a remarkable save to divert the ball onto the crossbar.
With the home side in the ascendancy, it was a refereeing decision that halted their momentum. A soft penalty was awarded to the away side on 73 minutes, and after some deliberations from the AFC Fylde players, Decarrey Sheriff converted it confidently.
The home side refused to lie down though, and it was Fylde’s number 9 that provided the perfect response. Hulme plucked Danny Philliskirk’s hopeful cross out of the sky, and finished in typical Jordan Hulme fashion to give The Coasters a foothold in the game.
Both sides battled hard for the remainder of the game, until Nick Haughton’s precise finish stole the headlines.
Haughton found space on the left wing and managed to weave inside the Kettering full-back onto his favoured right foot. From there he worked the space to pull the trigger – and that he did. His curling effort left the impressive Collin helpless in goal, and made sure AFC Fylde’s winning habit remained intact.