A sub-average away performance from FC United saw the Reds lose 4-2 to AFC Fylde in their first league game in over three weeks, with FC’s goals coming from Mike Norton and Greg Daniels at the end of each half.
A strong crowd of visiting fans made their way to Kellamergh Park in the autumnal sunshine to see United take a break from cup action to face the Coasters in a bid to add points to the table.
The Reds returned to the starting XI of the FA Trophy replay at Mossley two weeks ago, with James Spencer coming back from suspension to resume his position between the uprights.
A pre-match mention and best wishes went out to FC United youth player Elliot Regan who is recovering in hospital this week.
As the game got underway, Adam Farrell threatened early on for the home side, beating Dean Stott and getting his shot away, which met with the side-netting.
Jerome Wright’s throw into the area then met with the head of Adam Jones before the ball fell to Nicky Platt who sent his shot just wide from close range. Jake Cottrell also had an effort, coming through the midfield, and hitting an attempt goal wards which was deflected off course and out for a corner.
Norton found himself in a good position to latch onto a ball over the top, and the striker managed to turn inside the box before completing the move with a final ball which lacked the power to really test Ben Hinchliffe in the Fylde goal.
With a quarter of an hour played, the Coasters took the lead through Richie Allen. The front man picked up a cross field ball on the left and struck well on the volley to put his side ahead. Allen continued to look a danger to FC, this perhaps accentuated by how easily he was being allowed to run beyond the United backline.
Following a couple of attempts, the striker doubled his own and Fylde’s tally just past the half hour mark, this time with a strong finish from outside the area, after the defence had opened up to leave plenty of room.
Six minutes later Norton put FC back into the game and onto the score sheet. The ball was threaded through to the left-hand side of the area for the centre-forward to turn and hit a low drive past Hinchliffe into the United end.
Michael Barnes then ran through on goal, beyond the last man, and although looked to be offside, play was allowed to continue, and Barnes gifted with a chance, hit it wide.
Meanwhile, with most eyes on Barnes’ opportunity, the linesman had spotted an off-the-ball incident in the centre of the park. The referee indicated that Norton had been elbowed and the other Barnes in the side, Brad, was dismissed for violent conduct four minutes before half time.
The period that followed was probably the Reds’ best spell of the game. Kyle Jacobs worked the ball through to Norton who attempted a chip; unfortunately this was at the right height for the keeper to claim.
Norton then could have profited from a fantastic Lee Neville cross, however the striker’s free header was directed over the bar.
The Reds finished the half the better side and perhaps would have been disappointed not to draw level against the ten men of Fylde.
United’s wingers linked up at the start of the second half as Jacobs’ throw found Wright who played it through to Phil McGrath in front of goal, before it came back to Wright who poked the ball wide.
The Coasters made the decision to bring off their goalscorer Allen, who was replaced by Phil Jarvis, and minutes later, the United management also opted for a change, bringing off Cottrell for Chris Amadi to add another striking option.
The FC defence seemed powerless to halt Michael Barnes as he carried the ball through the midfield and into the area. The defence merely ran alongside the forward, without proffering a challenge, and it was all too easy for him to square to the unmarked Adam Farrell who hit home to make it 3-1.
Fylde were now playing deep and sitting on their two goal cushion, whilst United went three at the back for the remainder of the game, bringing attacking midfielder Daniels on for captain Jacobs who passed the armband to Jones.
The Coasters would probably have been content to sit back to see out the final stages, however Michael Barnes was given so much room to run several yards through the centre of the park, Fylde’s fourth goal was all but handed to them. Barnes evaded the sliding attempts of the United defenders one-by-one before slotting the ball under Spencer to wrap up his side’s scoring.
Substitute Daniels, having played well since being introduced, headed home a consolation for the Reds on 84 minutes, latching onto a good cross from the left-hand side.
Fylde saw out the game well, defending resolutely against the desperate attempts of the United players in the box, and bagging three deserved points.
Following a decent end to the first half, United fans would be forgiven for thinking that this would continue into the next period, especially with the home side a man down. However, FC United showed little desire and demonstrated defensive frailties throughout the game and this is ultimately reflected in the score line.
All will now be hoping that Marginson can pick his side up for the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie against Hereford next Saturday as the Reds look to progress in the competition.
Report by Victoria Fullen.