AFC Fylde Women had to settle for a share of the spoils last Sunday in an entertaining 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion Women in the FAWNL Northern Premier Division.

The Coasters travelled to Coles Lane in Sutton Coldfield facing a stern test against Jenny Sugarman’s West Bromwich side, who had recently recorded back-to-back league wins against Derby County and Hull City.

Fylde joint managers Kim Turner and Danielle Young named an unchanged starting eleven from the side that earned a 1-0 win away to Brighouse Town AFC Women last time out.

The Coasters began brightly and looked to settle into their usual passing rhythm. After a cagey opening, Jess Holbrook gave the visitors the lead in the 22nd minute by finishing off a well-worked team move. Amy Hughes raced down the left wing and cut the ball back, eventually finding Holbrook, who coolly slotted the ball past Poppy Bastock in the Albion goal.

At the other end, Fylde shotstopper Ellie Etheridge showed great confidence in commanding her box against a pacey Albion attack. When forward Shannon Stamps attempted to charge down a loose ball in the 35th minute, Etheridge raced out to collect the ball and nullify the danger. 

Minutes later, Etheridge was called into action once again when she repelled a strike by Leigh Dugmore from close range. The Coasters went into the interval with their one-goal advantage intact.

Half-Time: West Bromwich Albion Women 0-1 AFC Fylde Women 

At the start of the second half, Albion quickly went on the offensive and won a free-kick on the edge of the area. Hannah George floated the free-kick into the middle, and the loose ball fell at the feet of Dugmore, who prodded the ball home for the equaliser. There was little that Etheridge could do about it after keeping the hosts at bay for so long.

The game was turned on its head within minutes when George then threaded a ball through the centre to Stamps, who, taking aim from the edge of the area, expertly lobbed the ball over Etheridge to make it 2-1 to Albion. 

Driving forward with purpose, Albion came close to adding a third when George flashed a dangerous cross from the left, but it was just too far for Hayley Crackle to reach on the stretch.

As the Coasters battled to stem the tide, Abi Loydon then saw her effort cleared off the line by Jenna Carroll, who managed to scramble the ball away with the keeper beaten. It proved to be a turning point in the game.

Breaking on the counter, Faye McCoy latched onto a defence-splitting through ball and found herself one-on-one with keeper Bastock. Unnerved, McCoy made no mistake with a clinical finish to draw the Coasters level at 2-2 in the 57th minute.

In the 78th minute, Fylde came close to regaining the lead when Jodie Redgrave showed neat footwork to lay the ball off to Hughes, who shot agonisingly wide and into the side netting.

Etheridge then pulled off a fine save to deny Albion substitute Kate Evans from close range. Etheridge displayed great reflexes to turn the shot around the post. From the resulting corner kick, Dugmore saw her header rattle the crossbar before the ball was eventually cleared.

Deep into stoppage time, Fylde substitute Mel Bartley came close to grabbing a late winner when she found space on the left and cut inside for a sight of goal, but she scooped her effort over the crossbar.

Full-Time: West Bromwich Albion Women 2-2 AFC Fylde Women 

Next up, the Coasters meet Burnley FC Women in the final of the Lancashire FA Women’s Challenge Cup on Wednesday 23rd March. The final will be held at the County Ground in Leyland, with kick-off at 7.30 pm.

AFC Fylde Women: Etheridge, Forster, Fuller, Carroll, Holbrook, Hollinshead (71′ Rowe), Merrin, Redgrave (93′ Pottinger), Fryer (83′ Taylor), Hughes (89′ Bartley), McCoy

Unused substitutes: Young

Report by Scott Jones