AFC Fylde Women fell to a slender 2-1 loss on Sunday against Stourbridge FC Women at the War Memorial Athletic Ground.
Photo: Heather Watson - AFC Fylde Women Media
Connor Wild’s Coasters were keen to make a positive start to 2024 when they travelled to the West Midlands to face Mike Harris’ Stourbridge side, who have adapted remarkably well to life in the third tier since their promotion last season.
On a dry and cold afternoon, Fylde took the game to their hosts and applied some early pressure on the Stourbridge backline. With the visitors’ first chance, Beth Strutton swept the ball out wide to Clara Samson, who drove inside and fizzed a shot just wide of the post.
In the 14th minute, Fylde went ahead when Lois Moore converted a rebound from close range after Rebecca Beresford’s initial effort had been blocked. Moore showed great tenacity to close down the attempted defensive clearance to get the ball over the line.
The Coasters continued to press forward as Emma Siddall almost played Beresford through on goal, but Stourbridge goalkeeper Jamie-Lee Bamford rushed out to gather the loose ball.
At the other end, Daisy Clements tried her luck from distance with a speculative effort that drifted wide in the 24th minute.
A few minutes later, Stourbridge found the equaliser when Jessica Lowe fired home from just inside the box. After Zoe Clarke had regained possession on the edge of the area, the ball fell to Lowe, who showed great composure to finish past Liz Craven and draw the home side level.
In the remainder of the first half, both sides battled hard but were unable to produce any clear opportunities. As a result, the two teams went into the break on level terms.
Half-Time: Stourbridge FC Women 1-1 AFC Fylde Women
Shortly after the restart, Fylde fashioned a flurry of chances and came close to regaining the lead. In the 49th minute, Moore dribbled forward and forced a smart save from Bamford at her near post, who turned the ball behind for a corner kick.
From the resulting corner, Strutton towered above the defenders and glanced a header narrowly wide of the upright.
On the hour mark, Fylde threatened again from a corner kick when Iszy Binks’ cross picked out Strutton, whose initial header was blocked, before the follow-up shot was cleared off the line.
The Glass Girls were again indebted to Bamford, who did well to claim another goalbound header moments later.
In the 79th minute, Stourbridge grabbed the all-important winner when Kelsey Richardson scored a spectacular free-kick from the edge of the area. After substitute Hannah Fishwick had been fouled on the right edge of the area, Richardson took aim from the resulting free-kick and rifled the ball into the far corner, leaving Craven with no chance.
In the closing minutes, Fishwick almost extended Stourbridge’s lead when she headed on target, only to be denied by Moore’s brilliant last-ditch clearance off the line.
The defeat was tough on the Coasters, who somehow came away empty-handed after producing a spirited and resolute performance away from home. The result extended Fylde’s winless league run, but there were many positives to take the team’s first outing of the year.
Full-Time: Stourbridge FC Women 2-1 AFC Fylde Women
AFC Fylde Women: Craven, Hamill, Strutton, Taylor, James, Rowe, Siddall, Binks, Beresford, Samson, Moore
Unused substitute: Devereaux
Stourbridge FC Women: Bamford, Embley, Heaselgrave, Bennett-Steele (76’ Fishwick), Clarke, Clements, Richardson, Moran, Dicken (89’ Murphy), Lowe (80’ Rogers), Grove (66’ Robinson)
Unused substitute: Butler
Report by Scott Jones