The young Coasters put in a blistering first-half display at the Mazuma Stadium, which put them on their way to a 4-1 demolition of Morecambe FC in the opening round of the FA Youth Cup.
The U18’s came into the tie on Friday night, on the back of an outstanding 8-1 win away at Hebburn Town in the final Qualifying Round, and they shot out of the traps in similar fashion here.
It took just five minutes for the visitors to strike their first attack, coming inches away from netting the opening goal of the game.
Just moments later, Morecambe – an EFL category academy side – were caught snoozing when AFC Fylde’s 17-year old forward Curtis Poole picked up the ball in the middle of the pitch before playing a defence-splitting pass in between the full back and centre half. The well-timed ball allowed Rhys Long to race forward and tuck the ball home with a first time finish from just outside the penalty area.
It was the start that AFC Fylde had been dreaming of, and the goal seemed to inject belief into Conrad Predergast’s side, who didn’t have to wait long to add a second.
The Shrimps were once again caught off guard, when Curtis Poole used his initiative with a quick free-kick. Poole, who was instrumental in setting up the opener, played another well-timed pass to Owen Robison, who zipped a ball across the six-yard box for Coasters’ captain, Maine Walder, to tap into the back of the net.
Morecambe fought back on 18 minutes, though, as they looked to find a way back into the game. Their first and only goal of the tie came after an unfortunate slip by a Fylde defender, which allowed the Morecambe forward to have a free strike at goal. The centre-forward finished with aplomb, sending the ball into the top right corner and past a helpless Aaron Lancaster in the Fylde goal.
It didn’t take long for Fylde to reply though. Curtis Poole this time scored the goal that his first-half showing deserved. Aaron Lancaster’s brilliant long ball was brought down by the influential Poole, who then stroked the ball past the goalkeeper to put the visitors 3-1 up.
AFC Fylde’s performance had been brilliant up until this point, but Owen Robinson made it even better with a sublime first-time finish from 25 yards out. Robinson’s right-footed strike nestled into the top left corner, and made sure that Fylde came in at the half-time interval in complete control.
HALF TIME: Morecambe 1-4 AFC Fylde
The opening exchanges of the second half saw a much-improved display from Morecambe, who made a change at half-time to shore things up. The hosts, for the first time in the game, began to have the lions share of possession and fork out a few half chances.
Aaron Lancaster made an exceptional save from a one-on-one opportunity mid-way through the second half, which prevented Morecambe from getting a foothold in the game.
In the closing stages, both teams battled hard. The visitors fought to maintain their 3-goal lead, while The Shrimps threw everything at turning their fortunes around, but ultimately it was Fylde who came out on top.
As the game neared an end, The Coasters’ back line defended admirably and managed to limit the opposition to efforts from range.
The referee blew time on an entertaining First Round clash, with AFC Fylde coming away with a surprise 4-1 victory.
FULL TIME: Morecambe 1 – 4 AFC Fylde
Conrad Prendergast will now prepare his players for the Second Round home tie against Sunderland.
Captain Maine Walder showed his delight after the game, saying: “The team were unbelievable tonight; to come away from home, be the underdogs and perform like we did, it feels so good.
He added, “We’ve got a really good game to look forward to now and it’s another chance for us to challenge ourselves against higher opposition”
Meanwhile, U18’s Manager, Conrad Prendergast, echoed his captain’s comments:
“I’m really proud of the lads – after everything we spoke about in the week; everything that we have worked on and highlighted in the build up to this game, it was all taken on board.
“What pleased me even more was that when things took a swing during the second half, we remained focused and played with bravery to come away with a well-deserved win.”