AFC Fylde gave League Two favourites Exeter City a scare on Saturday as they fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat at St James Park. Jordan Hulme’s tidy finish after 11 minutes gave The Coasters a dream start, but two first-half goals from academy graduates Matt Jay and Alex Hartridge helped secure the Grecians place in the Second Round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Jim Bentley made one change to the team that started in the Alfreton Town draw on Tuesday night, bringing Jordan Lussey in to make his first start for the club, and dropping the experienced David Perkins to the bench. In the other camp, Exeter City made seven changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Morecambe in their League Two encounter in mid-week.
The first chance of the game fell to the visitors, with young Exeter City defender Alex Hartridge getting his head to a corner, and sending it just wide of Chris Neal’s far post. It was a let off for the visitors.
AFC Fylde quickly settled into the game, however, and controlled the opening ten minutes.
Their dominance was rewarded with 11 minutes on the clock. Nick Haughton jinked past two Exeter defenders and saw his shot deflect towards AFC Fylde’s number 9, Jordan Hulme. The striker held off Rory Mcardle, swivelled and drove the ball past Jokull Andresson in between the sticks.
That goal seemed to wake the hosts up a little after their uncharacteristic start to the game.
Exeter looked to expose the visitors down the flanks, swinging several crosses into the box that were defended well by skipper-on-the-day Alex Whitmore, and Wigan Athletic loanee Jack Sanders.
On 22 minutes, Hulme found himself in some room again, but this time Andresson managed to get a hand to his strike and divert away from goal.
The Coasters continued to pile on the pressure, as Tollitt then saw a curling effort saved by Andresson after 23 minutes.
Three minutes later, and Exeter found an equaliser against the run of play. Exeter City’s academy graduate, Matt Jay, sprung into life on the left wing, cut inside and drove a low effort past the outstretched arms of Neal.
In the 33rd minute the game swung in Exeter’s favour, as Hartridge instinctively turned and found the back of the net to give the Grecians the lead. The young centre-back found room in the penalty area and reacted well to a header down from a corner, as he bagged his first goal in an Exeter City shirt.
Chris Neal made an outstanding save after 35 minutes to keep the score at 2-1, Alex Seymour getting free at the front-post but was halted by the stoppers right leg.
The final chance of the first half fell to Fylde’s number 10, Nick Haughton. The creative midfielder, who hadn’t made much of an impact until this point, found some room 25 yards out and tried his luck. His effort landed just over Andresson’s crossbar following a wicked deflection.
Half time: Exeter City 2-1 AFC Fylde
It took seven minutes for the second-half to come to life, and it was Hulme who initiated it. The powerful centre-forward held off Mcardle, spun and struck an effort towards the top corner, only for the goalkeeper to parry over the bar.
Hulme was then on the floor claiming for a penalty on the hour mark, but the referee waved his protests away – much to his dismay.
With less than 15 minutes to go, Haughton had the perfect opportunity to fire The Coasters level. After weaving in an out of the host’s defence, Haughton found himself 8-yards out with the goal at his mercy, but he lost his footing at the crucial moment and the chance passed.
The busy Andresson had more work to do on 81 minutes, getting across to tip Luke Burke’s left-footed long range effort wide.
The final ten minutes saw The Coasters pour bodies forward in search of the all-important equaliser. Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain.
A disappointing climax, but a valiant effort by Jim Bentley’s side who gave the League Two opposition plenty of scares on Saturday afternoon.
Full Time – Exeter City 2 – 1 AFC Fylde