AFC Fylde managed to claim a well-earned point in their National League opener after coming from two goals down to grab a 2-2 draw against Maidenhead United.
The hosts were gifted the opener after a mistake by Danny Whitehead was capitalised on by Reece Smith, who raced through on goal and smashed into the top corner before an own goal seven minutes later extended their lead to two.
As the Coasters eventually settled into their rhythm, it led to Haughton getting off the mark for 23/24 and halving the scoreline after meeting Luke Conlan’s cross to head into the bottom corner.
With the hosts still ahead going into the 90th minute, up popped substitute and captain Alex Whitmore from a Haughton corner, who rose highest to leave Craig Ross rooted to the spot and watching the ball sail into the bottom corner.
Adam Murray named a strong squad to start the 2023/24 National League campaign, with new signings Jon Ustabasi and Gold Omotayo being named in the starting line-up.
You’d expect a frantic start in the opening stages of the season opener, but both sides looked calm, with the first chance falling Maidenhead’s way after a cross from the right hung in the air until Kane Ferdinand met it and lifted over the bar before a half-volley for Jon Ustabasi travelled wide of the post.
The Coasters were keeping possession superbly until a mistake from Whitehead saw him dispossessed by Smith in the middle third, leaving him with a free run at goal and time to strike into the top corner for the game’s opener.
Aiming to respond instantly, Omotayo did superbly to slide in and win the ball after the Magpies attempted to play their way out from the back, leaving Nick Haughton to spot Craig Ross off his line and looking to chip over him, but he could only find the gloves of the shot-stopper.
Maidenhead then doubled their lead after an Obi foul led to him picking up a yellow card and the Magpies with an opportunity to swing a cross in. As the ball made its way to the back post, Obi couldn’t adjust his feet to clear, and the ball slowly bounced into the bottom corner.
Murray’s men did start to settle once again, which gave Conlan a chance to burst down the left and win a corner. Haughton floated the set-piece into the area and found Obi, who leapt and headed powerfully at goal, only to be denied by an excellent Ross hand.
That gave them further impetus to go for their first of the game, and they looked good value for money, leading to Haughton halving the deficit. Luke Conlan raced down the left and hung a cross into the middle of the 18-yard box, where the number 10 was waiting to head into the bottom corner.
Half-time: Maidenhead United 2-1 AFC Fylde
It took until the 62nd minute for either side to register their first effort on target in a quiet start to the second half, firstly, from the Magpies as Ashley Nathaniel-George cut inside and saw his shot deflect off Alex Whitmore, onto the bar and hooked away.
The Coasters should have been level moments later after Connor Barrett magnificently drifted past his man with a silky bit of play and picked out Jon Ustabasi unmarked in the middle for a powerful strike that Ross somehow kept out.
It was much better from Fylde, especially since Haughton’s goal, and they were unlucky not to have a leveller when a long ball upfield from Harry Davis to Luke Charman allowed the substitute to round Ross and find Omotayo, whose first-time flick rolled inches past the post.
Although the game was in the 90th minute, the Coasters were battling, and they found an equaliser. Nick Haughton floated one into the danger zone from a corner, and Alex Whitmore was there to power home a header to earn a solid point on the road.
Full-Time: Maidenhead United 2-2 AFC Fylde
Maidenhead United: Ross; Asare (89’ Eweka), De Havilland, Lokko, Beckwith, Ferdinand, Adams, Clerima (63’ Keetch), Smith, Nathaniel-George (87’ Kinsella), McCoulsky.
Unused Subs: Parsons, Petit.
AFC Fylde: Richardson; Obi, Davis, Bird; Conlan, Barrett; Philliskirk, Whitehead (46’ Whitmore); Ustabasi (65’ Charman), Haughton, Omotayo (87’ Ligendza).
Unused Subs: Walker, Glynn.