Returning to league action, the Coasters put in a battling performance against Derby County FC Women on Sunday 5 December to earn a valuable point at the Don Amott Arena in Mickleover.

The clash pitted first versus third in another highly competitive fixture in the FAWNL Northern Premier Division. After exiting the Vitality Women’s FA Cup with a 3-2 home loss to Burnley last Sunday, the Coasters were looking to return to winning ways on their visit to the East Midlands.

As for the home side, Derby County came into the game in a confident mood following their convincing 4-0 victory against Sheffield FC Women last time out. The Ewe Rams also made this fixture their official Stonewall UK Rainbow Laces Game and welcomed a good crowd for this top-of-the-table contest. 

It is safe to say that Derby County had much the better of the early exchanges and attacked with real intent down both flanks.

The Coasters had to be alert to the danger posed by a number of crosses into the box, particularly from corner kicks. Marshalled by the returning Ellie Etheridge in goal, Fylde had to maintain their defensive shape to keep the Ewe Rams at bay.

On the quarter-hour mark, Derby County’s Sofia Domingo worked space down the right and played in Ellie Gilliatt, who fired a shot just over the bar.

Two minutes later, Megan Tinsley charged forward into space down the left wing and flashed a shot narrowly wide of Etheridge’s goal.

The next big chance fell again to the home side when striker Precious Hamilton received a square pass from Domingo and struck a side-footed volley that whistled inches past the post.

The Coasters began to grow into the contest and responded soon after with a long-range effort by Amy Hughes that stung the palms of Derby County keeper Sarah Morgan.

At the other end, Fylde keeper Etheridge was kept busy with a couple of excellent saves to prevent Gilliatt from opening the scoring either side of the half-hour mark.

Whilst the impressive Jodie Redgrave made a number of crucial challenges in midfield, it was defender Alex Taylor who made a perfectly timed block to deny Gilliatt’s goalbound effort moments later.

Despite Derby County’s constant attacking pressure, it was arguably the Coasters who had the best chance of the first period on the cusp of half time. Laura Merrin curled in a free kick to the back post that Redgrave met with a deft header into the bottom left corner, but Morgan reached down low to push it away. From the ensuing scramble in the box, the rebound was cleared off the line, much to home side’s collective relief.

Half-Time: Derby County FC Women 0-0 AFC Fylde Women

The Coasters battled hard in the second half and showed greater confidence going forward. The first chance after the restart came through Jess Holbrook’s lofted free kick that was only partially cleared by Gilliatt, before keeper Morgan rushed out to gather the ball ahead of the advancing Hannah Fryer.

Indeed, Fryer was at the heart of the action minutes later when she delivered a weighted cross that striker Faye McCoy met with a towering header towards goal. However, McCoy was unable to generate enough power in the header to beat Morgan at her far post.

In the 70th minute, Derby County playmaker Emily Joyce looked almost destined to score when she bore down on Etheridge’s goal, only for Redgrave to make an incredible last-ditch interception to deflect the goalbound shot behind for a corner kick. The resulting corner came to nothing.

The Coasters then brought on Sasha Rowe to replace Amy Hughes on the right flank, and the change served to reenergise the team up front. Finding a yard of space in the box, McCoy came close to scoring a minute later when she hit a swerving shot just wide of the post.

For the home side, Jade Formaston came close to scoring herself when she collected Hamilton’s through ball on the edge of the area and arrowed a shot towards the top right corner, but her effort went narrowly over the bar.

In the 77th minute, Fylde brought on fresh legs in attack with the introduction of Beth Donoghue in place of Hollinshead, who herself had worked tirelessly up front all afternoon.

In the closing stages, both sides continued to press for a late winner. In the 89th minute, Fryer swept in another cross from the right that McCoy headed on target, but her effort was held comfortably by Morgan.

The Ewe Rams proved to be a tough opponent for Fylde on a hard-fought afternoon in the East Midlands. However, the Coasters defended resolutely and grew in confidence over the course of the 90 minutes to keep a clean sheet and take a share of the spoils.  

Full-Time: Derby County FC Women 0-0 AFC Fylde Women

Next up, the Coasters are back on the road with a trip to Norton and Stockton Ancients Ladies FC in the next round of the FAWNL Cup. This rearranged League Cup tie at Station Road has been brought forward to Sunday 12 December.

AFC Fylde Women: Etheridge, Taylor, Forster, Fuller, Holbrook, Hollinshead (77’ Donoghue), Merrin, Redgrave, Fryer, Hughes (70’ Rowe), McCoy.

Unused substitutes: Young, Bartley, Whitaker.

Report by Scott Jones