AFC Fylde Women put in an excellent defensive display in a goalless draw away to West Bromwich Albion Women at Keys Park in Hednesford on Sunday.
Both teams were indebted to the heroics of their goalkeepers in a hard-fought game that saw the Coasters earn their first away clean sheet of the season.
Fylde shot-stopper Ellie Etheridge made a series of brilliant saves to keep the Baggies at bay, including a crucial penalty save midway through the second half.
In attack, the Coasters also created a number of goalscoring chances but were constantly denied by Albion’s impressive goalkeeper Charlotte Clarke.
The Baggies were making their debut at Keys Park, the home of Hednesford FC, and Jenny Sugarman’s Albion side would have been keen to put on a show for the home crowd. In this context, Fylde manager Danielle Young would have been pleased with her team’s defensive resilience to come away with a point.
Young’s team came into the game on the back of a 4-2 defeat in midweek at the hands of Burnley FC Women. In a thrilling contest under the lights at Kellamergh Park, the Coasters were undone by the clinical finishing of their Lancastrian neighbours.
As for their opponents, the Baggies had made it back-to-back league wins with a 2-1 victory over Boldmere St. Michaels last time out.
In a frantic opening to the game, Laura Merrin almost gave the visitors the lead from a free-kick. She curled in a left-footed cross that evaded everyone until Clarke palmed the ball away at the back post.
Minutes later, the home side attacked with pace, and Shannon Stamps set up Sophie Tudor, who fired over the crossbar. Baggies captain Hannah George then crossed for Stamps, who laid the ball off to Kerry Walklett for a sight of goal. Under defensive pressure, Walklett could only shoot wide of the target.
On the cusp of half-time, Etheridge was alert to the danger when she made a smart save down to her left to prevent Albion midfielder Janelle Straker from opening the scoring.
Half-Time: West Bromwich Albion Women 0-0 AFC Fylde Women
At the start of the second half, new signing Caz Fields was introduced to the fold to strengthen the Fylde midfield.
Both teams continued to press for the opener. At one end, Stamps came close when her cross struck the top of Etheridge’s crossbar before the ball was eventually cleared to safety. At the other end, the Coasters threatened themselves when Faye McCoy’s long-range effort flashed just over the crossbar.
On the hour mark, the hosts were awarded a penalty after a clumsy foul in the box. Albion skipper Hannah George dispatched the penalty kick but was then ordered to retake the penalty due to encroachment.
Fortunately for the Coasters, Etheridge made a fantastic save to her left to deny George’s second spot-kick attempt and keep the score at 0-0.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Clarke was called into making a fantastic save of her own when she pushed a dangerous Fylde corner onto the crossbar.
In the closing minutes, Clarke made another remarkable save to tip a goalbound shot around the post. For all their attacking pressure, Fylde just could not find a way past her, and the game ended in a goalless draw.
The Coasters can take heart from their battling display against an in-form Albion side. The result leaves the Coasters still searching for their maiden win of the season, but this away point could serve as a building block ahead of a busy fixture list in the FAWNL Northern Premier Division.
Full-Time: West Bromwich Albion Women 0-0 AFC Fylde Women
AFC Fylde Women: Etheridge, Fryer, Taylor, Carroll, Merrin, Rowe (Forster), Holbrook, Hollinshead (Fields), Smith, Hughes, Binks (McCoy)
Unused substitutes: Whitaker, Young
Next up, the Coasters begin their journey in the FAWNL Cup with the visit of Derby County Women on Sunday 11th September. This home tie will be played at Kellamergh Park, with kick-off at 2.00 pm.
Report by Scott Jones