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Thursday 27th April 2023

Photo: Heather Watson - AFC Fylde Women Media

AFC Fylde Women suffered a bitter blow on Sunday after conceding a last-gasp goal in a 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion Women at Kellamergh Park. With the game seemingly destined for a draw, the Baggies scored a dramatic winner with only a few minutes remaining to take home all three points. The Coasters made a blistering start when Faye McCoy’s towering header put them ahead in the opening minutes. The Baggies then equalised midway through the first half when Hannah George’s cut-back cross was nodded home by Lizzie Bennett-Steele. After that, Fylde had to defend resolutely to keep the visitors at bay. Fylde came out in the second half with renewed determination and created a host of chances. However, they were constantly thwarted by a resilient Albion backline and an outstanding display by visiting goalkeeper Charlotte Clarke. With time running out, Albion substitute Abi Loydon rounded off a counterattack with a close-range finish to give the visitors the lead against the run of play. Despite a final rally, Fylde could not draw level to prevent a narrow defeat on home soil. James Mallett’s team headed into the game off the back of a 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town Women on Easter Sunday. McCoy converted a late penalty to settle a tight affair at the Stafflex Arena. Amidst a busy run of fixtures, Jenny Sugarman’s Albion side also tasted victory in their previous outing with a 2-1 win at Loughborough Lightning. On a sunny afternoon at Kellamergh Park, it did not take long for the Coasters to stamp their mark on proceedings as McCoy opened the scoring in the fifth minute. After Sasha Rowe had won a free-kick near the right touchline, Laura Merrin swung in an inviting cross to the back post, and McCoy steered a header into the far corner of the net. The Baggies looked to build pressure from a series of set pieces. From a corner kick, Shannon Stamps centred for Bennett-Steele, whose header just clipped the top of the crossbar and went over. The visitors created another attempt minutes later when Phoebe Warner angled a shot towards the bottom corner, but Fylde goalkeeper Liz Craven reacted well to make a comfortable save. The Baggies were rewarded for their endeavours in the 25th minute when they grabbed the equaliser. George drove down the left wing and pulled the ball back to Bennett-Steele, who expertly headed into the bottom left corner. On the half-hour mark, Albion surged forward again, and George curled a speculative effort from the edge of the area that drew a fine save by Craven, who tipped the ball over. The resulting corner kick came to nothing. Merrin then whipped in a corner that caused all sorts of problems in the six-yard box, before the Albion defence eventually scrambled the ball away to safety. The teams went into the break on level terms. Half-Time: AFC Fylde Women 1-1 West Bromwich Albion Women Shortly after the restart, Fylde threatened when Iszy Binks played a delightful pass to Emma Siddall, who raced to the byline and crossed into the box, but her cutback was gathered by Clarke. Fylde pressed forward again when Hannah Forster’s cushioned header played in McCoy, who instinctively volleyed on target, but Clarke was equal to it. On the hour mark, the Coasters were then left wondering how they had not retaken the lead, but the Baggies were again indebted to Clarke, who made two quick saves, first to parry Binks’ long-range drive, then to block Alex Taylor’s rebound with her feet. Fylde were forced into a change when Siddall went off injured after a heavy challenge with George near the halfway line. Siddall was replaced by Evie Whitaker in midfield. In the 84th minute, fellow substitute Amy Hughes almost found a way through the Albion rearguard when she cut inside and fired at goal, but Clarke made a smart save at her near post. Minutes from full-time, the Baggies broke on the counter as Sophie Tudor combined with Mariam Mahmood, before the ball found its way to Loydon inside the box. As Craven raced out to narrow the angle, Loydon buried her effort into the bottom right corner to make it 2-1. In the 88th minute, Rowe lofted in a free-kick from distance that nearly found the back of the Albion net. As the ball bounced up, Clarke had to scramble back to push the ball over the crossbar. Ultimately, the Coasters could not find that elusive second goal to salvage a point from the contest. As a result, the Coasters slipped down to tenth in the table with one game left to play. Full-Time: AFC Fylde Women 1-2 West Bromwich Albion Women Next up, the Coasters welcome Boldmere St. Michaels Women to Kellamergh Park for their final game of the 2022/23 season. This home fixture is scheduled for Sunday 30th April, with kick-off at 2.00 pm. Supporters are encouraged to come along and celebrate another remarkable season for the team. AFC Fylde Women: Craven, Binks (65′ Hughes), Fryer, Bickett, Merrin, Forster, Rowe, Beresford, Siddall (78′ Whitaker), Taylor, McCoy (65′ Simonin). Unused substitutes: Hunter, Fenton. West Bromwich Albion Women: Clarke, George, Embley, Cole (65′ Mahmood), Bennett-Steele, Dudley-Jones (78′ Tudor), Stamps, Timms, Warner (83′ Loydon), Evans (83′ Walklett), Newell. Unused substitute: Crackle. Report by Scott Jones

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