A goal-fest at the Tufnell’s Home of Football meant AFC Fylde Women progressed to the next round of the FAWNL Cup last Sunday, with a superb 2-5 victory over Sheffield FC Women.
The Coasters came from behind to beat their league counterparts, thanks to goals from Mel Bartley, Jodie Mortimer, Jess Holbrook, Sasha Rowe and Hannah Forster after Lauren Evison had taken an early lead for the home team before Yaz Mason scored a late consolation.
Playing in their changed yellow strip, Fylde made numerous changes to last week’s line-up with starts for Jenna Carroll, Jodie Mortimer, Mel Bartley and Becky Abbott.
With barely 2 minutes on the clock, Sheffield opened the scoring with their first chance. Latching on to a weighted through ball down the right, Lauren Evison prodded the ball past Savannah Smith in the Fylde net with a first-time finish.
The home side’s swift counterattack caught the Fylde defence off guard as Evison timed her to run to perfection. Not to be deterred, the Coasters pressed for an immediate leveller and made several forays into the final third, notably through Abbott on the left and Hollinshead down the middle.
On the quarter-hour mark, Fylde equalised when Abbott’s excellent in-swinging cross from the left was met by Bartley’s measured volley into the roof of the Sheffield net, leaving the diving Abi Megeary with no chance.
Probing for a second goal, Bartley then charged onto a through ball and flicked it over Sheffield defender Brooke Smith to get a clear sight of goal, but Smith recovered well to hook the ball clear.
Moments later, Rowe tried to find an angle for a shot inside the box, but the ball ricocheted into the welcoming arms of Megeary.
The Coasters made their pressure tell in the 38th minute by netting their second goal of the game. Hollinshead drilled an inch-perfect cross to the near post for Mortimer to turn home from close range, giving the visitors a deserved lead in the contest. It was just rewards for Fylde after several threatening raids into the Sheffield penalty area.
Goalscorer Mortimer was soon involved in another attack as she tried to get a connection on a looping through ball, but her header was easily gathered by Megeary. On the cusp of half time, Rowe showed great determination to create space on the right and sent in an inviting cross for Bartley in the centre, but the striker could only glance her header wide.
Half time: Sheffield FC Women 1-2 AFC Fylde Women
The Coasters raced out of the blocks in the second half to try and extend their lead. After Hollinshead’s long-range shot stung the palms of Megeary, Holbrook charged down the rebound and made no mistake in slotting the ball home.
Bartley then turned provider when she advanced into space on the left wing and crossed to Rowe, who was bearing down on goal at the back post. Rowe confidently drilled the ball inside the near post to register Fylde’s fourth goal in the 51st minute.
Minutes later, Mortimer connected with a looping pass and tried to lob the ‘keeper, but Megeary reached high to tip the ball over for a corner. The Coasters’ fifth goal arrived when the Sheffield backline failed to clear Abbott’s low corner kick into the front post, and Hannah Forster turned the ball home from two yards out.
Just past the hour mark, Forster was substituted for Eve Whitaker, who quickly looked to get on the ball in the midfield. In one such play, Whitaker set off on a mazy dribble through the centre to feed Abbott down the left, but Abbott’s early cross was intercepted and cleared by Brooke Smith in the Sheffield defence.
After showing neat control in the centre, Hollinshead found an opening on the edge of the area but was unable to keep her shot down. In the 73rd minute, the Coasters made their second substitution, as Bartley was replaced by Kaya Pottinger in the attack.
Playing with renewed vigour in the closing stages, the home side reduced the deficit in spectacular fashion courtesy of a breath-taking long-range strike by Yaz Mason. Collecting the ball some 30 yards out, Mason raced forward before curling a left-footed effort into the top-right corner, leaving keeper Smith with no chance.
Directly from the restart, Fylde responded by winning a corner on the right. From Abbott’s subsequent delivery, Holbrook attempted to turn and shoot inside the box, but the ball bounced out to substitute Pottinger, who arrowed a shot towards the top corner, but it narrowly cleared the upright.
The impressive Abbott was then replaced by Laura Merrin, who joined in the attack on the left flank. The final goalscoring chance came from a direct free-kick awarded after Hollinshead was tripped on the edge of the area. On this occasion, Holbrook was unable to test the keeper as she blazed over.
It mattered little as the full-time whistle blew, and the Coasters secured an emphatic win to advance in the League Cup.
Full time: Sheffield FC Women 2-5 AFC Fylde Women
Fylde are back in cup action on Sunday 17th October when they welcome Fleetwood Town Wrens Ladies to Kellamergh Park in the second round of the Lancashire FA Women’s Challenge Cup, with kick-off at 2.00 pm.
AFC Fylde Women: Smith, Taylor, Forster (63′ Whitaker), Fuller, Carroll, Holbrook, Hollinshead, Rowe, Bartley (73’Pottinger), Abbott (82’Merrin), Mortimer.
Unused substitutes: Young, Hughes
Report by Scott Jones