AFC Fylde Women returned to league action on Sunday with a 3-0 defeat against in-form Derby County Women at Kellamergh Park.
It proved to be a difficult day at the office for the Coasters, as the Ewe Rams showed their clinical edge in front of goal to claim all three points and continue their winning start to the year.
First-half goals from Amy Sims and Kira Rai gave Sam Griffiths’ Derby County a two-goal cushion at the interval. Early in the second half, Jess Camwell added a spectacular third to extend the visitors’ lead.
An injury-hit Fylde side, who were missing several key players, worked tirelessly throughout the 90 minutes to find a route back into the contest. Despite their best efforts, the Coasters were unable to find the goals that their play deserved.
Fylde were left to rue a number of missed chances, including a wonder strike that rattled the crossbar and a missed penalty in the dying embers of the game.
Among the changes to Fylde’s line-up, Cara Bickett came into central defence and Iszy Binks slotted into the midfield, while Charlie Hignett and Rebecca Beresford started in attack alongside Faye McCoy. Hannah Forster skippered the side.
The hosts started the game on the front foot and won an early free-kick 20 yards out. Laura Merrin swung in a dangerous free-kick that visiting goalkeeper Imogen Maguire did well to gather under pressure.
Derby County’s first chance came from Sims, who jinked past two defenders and shot from an acute angle to bring a fine save out of Fylde goalkeeper Megan Hunter. Rai attempted to steer the rebound inside the post, but Hannah Fryer made a superb block on the line.
In the 12th minute, Rai intercepted a misplaced pass out from the back and squared to Sims, who turned inside and scored with a low finish into the far corner. Sims’ shot bounced up off the turf and over Hunter’s dive on its way into the Fylde goal.
Minutes later, Emily Joyce tried her luck with an audacious attempt. Flicking the ball up for herself, Joyce hit a looping shot towards the top corner that Hunter managed to palm away before Fryer made another crucial block to deny Rai on the follow-up.
As the Coasters got into their rhythm, they almost grabbed an equaliser when Hignett back-heeled the ball to Binks, who lashed a first-time effort that drew a smart save from Maguire to preserve the visitors’ lead.
With half-time approaching, Sasha Rowe came close to equalising for Fylde when her angled strike struck the crossbar. Rowe drifted past a defender before hitting a piledriver that had Maguire well beaten, only for the woodwork to come to the visitors’ rescue.
In the 42nd minute, Derby County doubled their lead when Rai darted down the left and sent in a low cross that took an unfortunate deflection off Bickett and into the Fylde net. It was a sucker punch for the Coasters, who trailed by two goals at the break.
Half-Time: AFC Fylde Women 0-2 Derby County Women
Derby County added a third goal shortly after the restart. Rai controlled a pass through the middle before teeing up Camwell, who curled a first-time shot over Hunter and into the back of the net. Camwell’s lobbed finish from just inside the area put the visitors in a commanding position.
On the hour mark, Hunter showed great agility to keep out Anita Gaspar’s powerful drive. Minutes later, Sims slid the ball through to Emilia Wilson, who smashed a shot against the crossbar, before the referee halted the game for a head injury to Rowe.
Refusing to give up, Fylde continued to press forward. Forster’s pinpoint cross from the right almost found the head of McCoy, but the recovering defender just managed to head the ball away.
Fylde had a late chance to get on the scoresheet with a penalty kick in the 89th minute. Beresford’s cross picked out McCoy on the edge of the box, and McCoy’s volley was blocked by Sarah Jackson’s raised hand at point-blank range.
The referee pointed to the spot. After a lengthy delay while Jackson received treatment, McCoy took the penalty but dragged her shot wide of the post.
As the referee blew the full-time whistle, it brought an end to a frustrating afternoon for the Coasters.
Full-Time: AFC Fylde Women 0-3 Derby County Women
AFC Fylde Women: Hunter, Fryer, Young, Bickett, Merrin, Forster, Rowe, Binks, McCoy, Beresford, HignettUnused substitutes: Fenton, Whitaker
Derby County Women: Maguire, Jenkins, Hilliard, Ward (61′ Jackson), Gaspar, Joyce, Sutherland, Rai (61′ Barry), Wilson, Sims, CamwellUnused substitutes: Morgan, McGrother
Report by Scott Jones