Luke Burke’s sensational first-half strike wasn’t enough to secure an eighth successive win for Jim Bentley’s side. Alfreton’s Elliott Reeves equalised early in the second-half, before substitute Jack Sampson was given his marching orders for a late tackle on former AFC Fylde midfielder, Dan Bradley.
The unbeaten start to the National League North campaign continued for the Coasters, as they battled to a hard-fought draw at the Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena. A mixture of hard work, organisation and a ruthless edge in front of goal has been key to the team’s excellent start to the season, but it was that clinical touch that was absent on this bitter Tuesday evening.
Fylde began proceedings in their usual positive fashion, working the ball from left to right in search of an opening.
That opening came in the 4th minute, when Jordan Hulme managed to get in behind Alfreton’s back four and fire against the woodwork, only to see the linesman raise his flag.
A minute later, former Coaster, Dan Bradley, looked to haunt his old team with a goal. Bradley found some space just outside the area and fired a low goal-bound effort, but Chris Neal got his body behind the strike to avert the danger.
It took until the 14th minute for the next opportunity to arise, Nathan Shaw this time testing George Willis in the Alfreton goal. Shaw threw a stopover, shimmied inside the defender and struck a venomous effort towards goal that George Willis managed to palm away.
Danny Philliskirk tried his luck from range on 26 minutes, but his effort didn’t trouble the goalkeeper, and in fact, struck the top of the stand,
After half an hour, Bradley saw a shot blocked by AFC Fylde’s skipper, Alex Whitmore.
With 36 minutes on the clock, Luke Burke broke the deadlock for the visitors in spectacular fashion. After some slick football, the ball was played out to the energetic full-back, Burke, on the right wing. The former Wigan Athletic defender took a touch inside, before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed strike into the top corner, leaving George Willis with no chance.
For the remainder of the half, both teams battled hard but struggled to carve out any more opportunities, giving AFC Fylde the advantage heading into the second period.
Alfreton flew out of the traps after their half-time oranges. Bradley, once again, at the heart of a dangerous Alfreton move. It was the midfielder’s intelligent pass that released Reeves on the right wing, before his cross flashed across the face of goal.
Half-time substitute, Nicky Walker, was next to try his luck from distance. His audacious 48th-minute effort almost caught Neal out, but AFC Fylde’s number one managed to tip the ball over the crossbar and out for a corner.
The visitors were handed the perfect chance to regain their advantage, when Whitmore got his head to a Haughton free-kick. The ball somehow stayed out, though, after ricocheting around the six-yard box and rolling across the goal line.
Hulme was then presented with a one-on-one with the goalkeeper three minutes later. A poor back pass was pounced on by the former Altrincham forward, but he failed to beat the legs of Willis who charged out of his goal to close the angle.
AFC Fylde’s inability to convert their chances was punished by the home side after 64 minutes, and it was the impressive Reeves who got his name on the scoresheet. The number 10 managed to beat Neal at the second time of asking, tapping home from close range to half the deficit and tee up an exciting finish.
Reeves nearly grabbed his second of the game shortly after, his effort just missing the top left corner after he wriggled in between Jack Sanders and Alex Whitmore.
In the 76th minute, substitute Jack Sampson took a heavy touch and lunged in on Alfreton’s Bradley; a tackle which the referee deemed dangerous and subsequently showed the centre-forward a straight red card.
With AFC Fylde now down to ten men, the hosts began to apply pressure, pushing more bodies forward to try to find a winning goal. Bradley and Reeves saw further efforts beaten away by Neal, before Nathan Fox forced the stopper into an outstanding save with less than ten minutes to go.
The final chance of the game fell to the away side, Tollitt bending over from 18 yards out with a minute to play.
Ten-men AFC Fylde were made to work hard for their point, but they will be glad to head back to the Fylde coast with their unbeaten run intact, albeit without the three points.