AFC Telford 0 Fylde 2 - Report

AFC Telford United have gone five National League North games without a victory as Dom McHale’s second-half penalty miss proved costly in a 2-0 home defeat to AFC Fylde.

The Bucks were deservedly behind 1-0 at the break after a sluggish first-half display in which Jordan Hulme handed the promotion-hunting Coasters the lead on half hour, with several other chances passed up.

But Gavin Cowan’s men improved after the break and McHale won a penalty just shy of the hour but crashed the post with his effort from 12 yards.

And the Bucks were further punished as Jack Sampson tapped home with just over 10 minutes left to extend their tough league run over the festive period and turn of the year.

Fylde, who climbed to third, were deserved winners on the balance of play and chances created – for just their second National North win on the road this season – but Cowan and Telford were left to rue McHale striking the woodwork with his spot-kick.

The hosts failed to test former Shrewsbury goalkeeper Chris Neal and Telford’s last league win was a home success over Guiseley back in late November. Cowan’s men impressed in a couple of FA Trophy ties since but have lost ground in the league with defeats against Chester and now Fylde, dropping them to 13th, four points off the play-offs.

Only leaders Gloucester (17) have played more league games than Telford, who are not in action on Tuesday, with coronavirus issues in the Hereford camp, and next travel to 17th-placed Curzon Ashton next weekend.

Cowan handed an immediate start to loan striker Kole Hall, whose switch from step three outfit Radcliffe was announced just three hours before kick-off. Hall impressed in his forward role, at times isolated, but put in an energetic and willing shift.

The 22-year-old Bermudian had impressed for Radcliffe, managed by former Telford man Lee Fowler, before football below National League level was suspended due to the pandemic.

And the powerful frontman was given an instant opportunity to improve his new side’s recent form of just four points from five league games. Regular forwards Jason Oswell, Aaron Williams and Jordan Davies dropped to the bench.

Fellow new boy, midfielder Simon Lenighan, another arrival from Radcliffe - this time on dual registration - started on the bench.

Telford were without the suspended Lee Vaughan, who started his three-match ban for the red card in the recent defeat at Chester.

The defence was further depleted by the positive Covid-19 test to Zak Lilly, who was due to fill in for the contest against the Coasters.

Ross White was recalled for his first start since the home defeat to Chorley on November 17 on the right side of the hosts’ back four.

Henry Cowans (quad) and Brendon Daniels (hamstring) are still missing for Telford.

Fylde, managed by Telford legend Jim Bentley who was not in the dugout as he continued his recovery from a heart bypass, were fourth ahead of confidence and high on confidence from the 4-0 thumping of FA Cup heroes Chorley last time out, from which they were unchanged. But Fylde's record away from Mill Farm this season has been average at best.

The Bucks had dropped to 12th after an indifferent recent run of four without a league win, though just four points separated them and the play-off places.

The hosts had new boy Hall, wearing no.25, leading the line and showing signs he was keen to put his considerable size around early on.

Fylde boasted a number of ex-Football League stalwarts and 38-year-old David Perkins rolled back the years in the opening minutes with a jinking mazy run at the heart of the home defence

Telford were bright for five minutes and a move involving Andy Bond’s powerful charge down the right allowed Hall, James Hardy and McHale to combine for the latter to curl over from 25 yards.

But the Coasters began to take charge, encouraged by a couple of loose balls out of the Telford defence. Sampson’s header from a free-kick was well tipped over by Bucks’ Russ Griffiths.

And, 13 minutes in, the visitors should have netted. Sampson and Nathan Shaw combined brilliantly, with a neat flick releasing Ben Tollitt in the box and Tollitt, hat-trick hero against Chorley last time out, slashed well wide.

Fylde passed up another glorious chance just minutes later as prolific marksman Jordan Hulme was free on the right of the penalty area, but his fierce drilled finish was expertly kept out by Griffiths, diving to his right.

The visitors continued to ask questions as big defender Alex Whitmore sent a back post header wide from a corner.

But, with 28 minutes gone, the Bucks could hold out no longer as more slack, loose defending proved costly.

Tollitt worked some room down the left side of the home box and was allowed to play a simple ball to the edge of the six yard box for Hulme, who took full advantage of poor marking as he was afforded the time to turn and smash a finish into the bottom right corner.

Marking from Theo Streete and Courtney Meppen-Walters was not tight enough.

The Bucks struggled for any control and saw precious little of the ball, with Hall ploughing an unenviable lone role.

Inquisition among the Telford ranks continued as Hulme stabbed an effort wide at the near post from a corner. Marking from the white shirts again well below par.

The midfield three of Jack Byrne, Adam Walker and Bond were all too often chasing the play as the visitors zipped neat play through to the frontline and the pattern persisted as Hulme was able to shoot low at Griffiths again.

Ex-Fylde schemer Hardy and McHale were not seeing anywhere near enough of the ball to influence things for their side.

Cowan resisted the temptation to make a change at the break and midfielder Bond shot well off target within 30 seconds of the restart.

The Bucks looked sharper and more threatening. Hall had worked hard up top and looked to be away from the backline before he appeared to miss his moment, but he found McHale, whose fine skill on the right byline allowed him to cross, and forced a corner.

Telford recycled the resulting dead ball towards skipper Walker at the back post, but he could only shoot into the ground and at Neal.

Fylde almost doubled their lead in their first venture forward of the half, Streete’s poor clearing header was turned goalwards by Danny Philliskirk, but his partner Meppen-Walters had retreated to clear off the line.

Hall continued to catch the eye in attack and the improving Bucks, who were enjoying their best spell, won a golden chance to level just shy of the hour.

McHale accelerated into the right side of the box and was caught by Luke Colan, with few complaints as referee Thomas Kirk pointed to the spot.

McHale picked himself up to do the honours and, having been made to wait by the official, smacked a fierce spot-kick plumb off the left-hand post and back out.

They were denied but the Bucks’ tails were up. McHale, in a bid to make amends, sent a free-kick well over seconds later.

The hosts began winning 50-50s and taking charge of second balls in launching attacks on the Coasters’ penalty box.

Cowan sent attacker Davies on for defensive midfielder Byrne to aid the hunt for a leveller with 20 minutes left. Williams was then introduced for Hall, who had a decent debut.

The contest was pretty open, with the Bucks scheming for that clear chance to equaliser after the spurned penalty. Fylde right-back Luke Burke kept Griffiths honest with a low effort from the edge of the box.

It was the Coasters, who had just taken off striker Hulme, who sealed the contest with the next goal with 12 minutes to go.

A diagonal ball found Burke in space on the right of Telford’s box and a low square ball found Sampson in all kinds of room to turn into an empty net for 2-0 and his first Fylde goal.

Telford were unable to fashion a chance of note in response in the final 10 minutes, Fylde sub Nick Haughton testing Griffiths further. The outcome was a deserved victory for the visitors, leaving the Bucks plenty to ponder from their mid-table position in the coming week.

Teams

AFC Telford United (4-3-3):

Griffiths; White, Streete, Meppen-Walters, Jones; Bond, Byrne (Davies, 69), Walker ©; McHale, Hardy; Hall (Williams, 75).

Subs not used: Rawlins, Lenighan, Oswell.

AFC Fylde (4-4-2):

Neal; Burke, Pond ©, Whitmore, Colan; Sampson, Perkins, Tollitt, Philliskirk; Shaw (Osborne, 89), Hulme (Haughton, 80)

Subs not used: Sanders, Nolan, Willoughby.

Referee: Thomas Kirk

Attendance: Zero

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