AFC Fylde 1, Ashton United 0
AFC Fylde are back in the play-off places thanks to a second successive victory and a first clean-sheet in nine games.
Danny Lloyd scored the only goal of an exciting Evo-Stik Northern Premier game at Kellamergh Park, which also ended an eight game winning run for the visitors.
The game was barely five minutes old when the tone was set as Joe Booth slid in for a 50/50 ball with Ashton captain Chris Lynch.
Lynch looked to have come off worse, staying down holding his head, and Booth was duly booked by referee David Croft.
Very little was created in the first 10 minutes or so and both teams cancelled each other out in the middle of the park, but after Jason Gorton headed wide for the visitors, goalkeeper Paul Phillips kept them in the game with a brilliant double save from Bradley Barnes.
From that point on it was all Fylde. Lloyd fired a free kick over the bar from 25 yards which he won himself and then Matt Hughes headed over from a corner with 21 minutes gone.
Lloyd saw two more effort go amiss within minutes of each other. The first a well-worked effort which saw him cut inside from the wing, but his shot was deflected inches wide of the post. And the second after he latched onto a great ball over the top from midfield only to be denied by the onrushing Phillips.
Matt Blinkhorn then saw a good chance deflected away from goal on 34 minutes with Phillips making sure to claim it before it went for a corner. Then Booth had a long range effort saved by Phillips three minutes on.
The goal eventually came from a fine interception just inside Ashton’s half by Blinkhorn and he played in Lloyd, who raced through, rounded the onrushing Phillips and blasted the ball into the bottom corner for a deserved lead five minutes before the break.
The Coasters sat back a bit after the goal but the only chance for Ashton was a long range strike from Lee Rick which sailed well wide just before the break.
The second half saw very little chances created from either side. The first of those coming in the 54th minute aided by Richie Allen, who was having a quieter game compared to last week against Worksop Town, as he squared to Booth, only for his shot to canon over of Allen’s back.
Blinkhorn had the best of Fylde’s chances in this half with 20 minutes to go, and it would have almost certainly doubled their lead had it not been for a good save from Phillips again to palm his shot wide for a corner.
The game began to get tasty as Fylde’s Sean Cooke felt the brunt of the hefty challenges. Lynch and Stephen Halford were both very lucky to stay on the pitch and only see yellow cards from Mr Croft for their challenges on the Fylde midfielder.
The last five minutes saw plenty of pressure from Ashton as they looked to find an equaliser and keep their unbeaten record against The Coasters intact. But Fylde keeper Ben Hinchliffe was only called into action in the final minute, pulling off a fine save from Dale Johnson before Gorton headed the next cross over the bar.
Fylde boss, Dave Challinor, was delighted with the overall performance of his side again and pleased to add another three points to the tally: “First and foremost it’s a win and also the clean sheet is very important but it was a fantastic performance.
“I thought especially in the first half we were excellent and we most definitely could have made it easier for ourselves by taking more of the chances that we created.
“But whilst it’s 1-0 they’re always going to be still in the game so it was important we concentrated and saw the game out, I felt, quite comfortably without being overly spectacular in the second half.”
Challinor added: “I thought we were exceptional the way we moved the ball and the chances that we created, the only thing missing was the goal and that eventually came on 40 minutes.
“But for the last five minutes of the half we seemed to sense an awareness that there was five minutes left and the lads wanted to see it out. We were a little bit edgy, invited some pressure, but we saw it through.”
This victory moves Fylde up to fifth in the table and their next league outing is at Marine on Saturday.
Before then comes a Doodson Sport Cup third round tie at home to Nantwich on Tuesday (7.45pm).