The Coasters kicked off the 2021/22 National League North campaign in style on Saturday afternoon, producing a dominant second-half display to overcome a gritty Guiseley AFC outfit at Nethermoor Park.
A brace apiece for Ben Tollitt and Nick Haughton powered the Coasters to their first victory of the new campaign. While a penalty by Jordan Thewlis and a late strike from captain Hamza Bencherif proved only consolatory for the Lions.
Manager Jim Bentley gave debuts to experienced midfielder Luke Joyce and loanee defender Jamie Stott, while Jordan Hulme and Emeka Obi missed out through suspension and injury.
The hosts looked the better team in the early exchanges, and they almost took the lead after just 2 minutes played; Jacob Grattom broke away from Alex Whitmore, but his low strike was well saved by the feet of Fylde goalkeeper Chris Neal.
Against the run of play, Fylde took the lead, as a deep Luke Burke cross was toed into Ben Tollitt’s path by striker Jack Sampson, and the winger calmly converted at the back post.
Fylde’s Nathan Shaw went down off the ball on 13 minutes, and eventually hobbled off the field with what looked like a hamstring issue.
Neal was called into action again after 17 minutes, once again denying Thewlis from eighteen yards out, after the midfield cut in from the left wing.
The scoreline was levelled on 21 minutes, after Sam Osborne was adjudged of handling inside the penalty area, giving Guiseley’s danger-man Jordan Thewlis the opportunity to slot home from 12-yards.
After conceding, Fylde responded well, with Haughton almost volleying into the bottom corner under pressure. However, the number 10’s acrobatic effort was just a foot wide of the mark.
Two more chances came The Coasters’ way before the half-time oranges, but both Haughton and Whitmore were unable to beat Jordan Amissah in the Lion’s goal.
HT: Guiseley AFC 1-1 AFC Fylde
The second-half started in cagey fashion, with neither team carving out any opportunities until the 52nd minute, when Haughton’s long-range free-kick flew harmlessly over the crossbar.
Six minutes later and Fylde were back in the driver’s seat thanks to another Ben Tollitt goal. Cutting in on his favoured right foot, Tollitt unleashed an effort from 22-yards out and beat the keeper via a heavy deflection.
Fylde began to dominate proceedings and just four minutes after going ahead they managed to extend their advantage. The ever-dangerous Tollitt was allowed too much time in the penalty area, but before he could pull the trigger, Lebrun Mbeka cynically pulled him to the ground and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Nick Haughton stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, and in turn, sent the travelling Coasters fans into raptures behind the goal.
The floodgates had opened and The Coasters’ pressure paid off again, with another penalty being awarded for handball. In similar fashion to the first, Haughton struck his penalty into the bottom right corner, despite the best efforts of Amissah to keep it out.
The Lions rallied and began to throw more bodies forward in search of a way back into the game. It took excellent defensive headers by substitute Liam Nolan and captain Alex Whitmore to keep the three-goal lead in tact.
That cushion was eventually broken, though, as defender Bencherif found room inside the 18-yard box, and squeezed the ball under Neal. The goal was no more than a footnote, however, as Jim Bentley’s side saw out the victory.
Fylde’s win puts them at the summit of the National League North table heading into their home game against Boston United next weekend, and makes the journey back to the Fylde coast a sweet one for the loyal Fylde following.
FT: Guiseley 2-4 AFC Fylde
AFC Fylde: Neal, Burke, Conlan, Whitmore, Stott, Shaw (Osborne 13’), Joyce, Philliskirk, Tollitt, Haughton (Nolan 80’), Sampson (Dobbie 86’)
Subs not used: Jones, Perkins