AFC Fylde Women came out on the losing side of a six-goal thriller on Sunday in a 4-2 defeat away to Huddersfield Town Women FC at the Stafflex Arena.

After producing a strong attacking display on the road, the Coasters were unfortunate to come away empty-handed from their opening fixture of the 2023/24 FAWNL Northern Premier Division season.

With new First Team Manager Jack Garside installed at the helm, AFC Fylde Women have assembled a youthful and talented squad that are determined to hit the ground running at the start of the new campaign.

On a fine afternoon in West Yorkshire, the Coasters took the game to their opponents and twice held the lead thanks to two goals by Ginny Lackey on either side of the interval.

Despite making a bright start to the second half, Fylde were unable to preserve their 2-1 lead, as Glen Preston’s free-scoring Terriers quickly restored parity, before adding two further goals to seal the victory.

In the opening stages, the hosts threatened when Yas Mason charged towards goal, but the Fylde backline was alert to the danger to make two vital blocks at close range.

With a quarter of an hour gone, the Coasters made the breakthrough when Clara Samson’s cross from the right was neatly controlled by Gilly Lackey, who swivelled in the box and fired into the bottom left corner past the helpless Olivia Conway in the Town goal.

It was the perfect way for the Coasters to open their goalscoring account for the new season.

However, the Terriers needed only a matter of minutes to level proceedings when Town debutant Freya Walton netted the equaliser from close range.

After a quick attack down the right flank, Kate Mallin’s centre was collected at the front post by Mason, who sharply turned and squared the ball to Walton in space. Walton’s side-footed finish squeezed inside the post past the outstretched dive of Fylde goalkeeper Liz Craven.

In the 38th minute, Craven showed great agility to save a speculative shot from Britt Sanderson and keep the scores level. At the other end, Murphy did well to work an angle on goal, but saw her effort drift wide of the post.

There was nothing to separate the two sides going into the break.

Half-Time: Huddersfield Town Women FC 1-1 AFC Fylde Women

The second half started at a frantic tempo, and the Coasters made a number of forays in the final third.

After beating the offside trap, Lackey then found herself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but her lofted attempt sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

In the 53rd minute, Fylde regained the lead with another clinical finish by Lackey, who pounced on a rebound to net her second of the game. Murphy initially drove forward down the middle and saw her low shot parried by Conway, but Lackey was on hand to steer the rebound into the back of the net.

Just before the hour mark, Town striker Sanderson scored a quick-fire brace to turn the game on its head. The equaliser arrived when Mason raced down the left and cut the ball back to Sanderson just inside the area. Instinctively, Sanderson arrowed a spectacular shot into the top right corner, leaving Craven with no chance.

With their tails up, the Terriers pressed forward again and made it 3-2 a few minutes later. Sanderson’s second of the contest was a stunning long-range finish from all of 35 yards out.

Refusing to give up, the Coasters continued to work hard in search of an equaliser but were undone on the counterattack deep into stoppage time. 

Town substitute Feiruz Abdullahi dribbled down the right wing, twisted inside, and rounded off a fine solo run with a looping finish into the top corner to make it 4-2.

In the dying embers of the game, there was still time for the Coasters to create another good chance, this time through Lauren Heria, who fired just over the crossbar.

Unfortunately, it was not enough to prevent defeat, but the team can certainly take many positives from their first game of the new season.

Full-Time: Huddersfield Town Women FC 4-2 AFC Fylde Women

Next up, the Coasters welcome Chorley Women to Kellamergh Park in the FAWNL Cup Determining Round. This fixture against the Magpies takes place on Sunday 27th August, with kick-off at the regular time of 2.00 pm.

Huddersfield Town Women FC: Conway, Stanfield, Ibbotson, Mallin, Harness, Walton (72’ Gill), Fields, Montgomery, Sanderson (89’ Abdullahi), Mason, O’Connor (65’ Nsangou)

Unused substitutes: McMahon, Devins

AFC Fylde Women: Craven, Thomas, Hamill, Strutton, Binks (80’ Dunn), Rowe, Heria, Moore (32’ Bickett), Samson (60’ Taylor), Murphy, Lackey

Unused substitutes: Hunter, Knox

Report by Scott Jones